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City gets ‘A’ in new bond grades

ESPN’s NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. wasn’t the only one giving out “grades” last week.

After spending a week in review with Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, the city upgraded its bond market grade from an “A minus” to “A,” something Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he’s proud to see in light of present times.

“To be able to get an upgrade to a full ‘A’ in the general fund in today’s economic environment is something we are exceptionally proud of,” Lunsford said. “Certainly we had a concern when they wanted to review the status of the city in the light we had made the acquisition of the hospital assets with the full guarantee of the city.”

Lunsford announced the grade change in Tuesday’s Troy City Council meeting, though the city was notified officially Monday.

Lunsford said rating officials probed deeply into the hospital purchase, requiring detailed budget information, plans for its next year’s operations and terms of the city commitment in supporting the facility.

He said in part of those discussions, he told the rating officials about the city’s $16 million Trust Fund, which will be brought before residents in a vote to decide whether to tap into the fund and ease the one-cent sales tax increase in funding the facility now.

“We showed them we would propose this change within a year because it gives the hospital one year of sales tax to help offset this turn around cost,” Lunsford said. “At that point in time it will be my recommendation the hospital debt be fully paid off with the balance of the Trust Fund. They like that concept.”

Lunsford said the last time this rating was done was just after the year 2000.

“We can’t say enough how excited we are. In the advent of taking the hospital back on and to have our rating increase is just absolutely wonderful,” Lunsford said. “It’s great testament to our city council making the right decisions (and) being frugal in expenditures.”

Lunsford said this move will mean when the city enters the bond market once again it will be able to spend less on insurance costs. It also means the city has a solid financial footing.

The council approved Tuesday to allow for loan negotiations that will lead the city back into the bond market for money promised to CGI. Lunsford said he believes that will happen in June.

Also in council business, the members approved an amendment to its zoning ordinance that will require those filing for zoning requests to pay a filing fee and reimburse the city on any costs accumulated in the process.

Prior to the council meeting, the city met with officials of the Pike Animal Shelter, where the shelter made its formal financial request.

The request was for around $81,700 a year from the city to help in operations and debt payments for the shelter, which will be located on property donated on Henderson Highway. The facility will serve as the new shelter for the city of Troy, but it will be available to all of Pike County’s residents.

Chair of the Founder’s Society Donna Schubert told council members the group has raised more than $100,000 on its own for the project.

“Our vision has always been partnership,” Schubert said.

The city of Troy did officially partner with the animal shelter group about two years ago.

“We promised we’d give them all the money we’re spending now, which is $4,000 a year,” Lunsford said.

The current shelter is located behind the Public Works Department off U.S. Highway 231. It can hold about 15 dogs and doesn’t have room for the unwanted cat population.

Lunsford said after hearing the request, the council will take it under advisement.

Another meeting has been scheduled in a work session before the next council meeting May 11.

Lunsford said officials of the Pike County Humane Society have also contacted the city saying they would like to request financial support, as well.

Architect Chuck Jones from Godwin & Jones was present to present the shelter’s plans to the city.

*Editors note: There will be a follow-up story on the Pike Animal Shelter and city of Troy’s discussions in the Thursday edition of The Messenger.