The bond brings county borrowing to a total of $250 million for debris removal and infrastructure repair. Officials say the money’s needed and they can't wait for federal disaster spending reimbursement, which could take years.
(TNS) — Bay County leaders approved their second $100 million bond issued for Hurricane Michael recovery in two months on Tuesday.
The latest bond tops off the county's borrowing at a total of $250 million to pay for debris removal and infrastructure repair. County officials say the money is needed and they can't wait for federal disaster spending reimbursement — a process expected to take years.
The Bay County Commission approved the bond issue during its regular meeting on Tuesday. The decision comes after the commission approved its first $100 million bond issue in early February. The commission first borrowed $50 million in November for debris removal.
"We wish we were in a better position and didn't have to borrow this money and pay interest on it," Commissioner Bill Dozier said during the meeting. "But we have to pay our bills and we have to have a receipt in hand to get reimbursed."
Commissioner Robert Carroll said the county had no choice but to borrow more money to cover its growing recovery bills.
"We have to pay our bills or we may not get reimbursed again," he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the county for much of its recovery spending. However, FEMA requires detailed receipts of all spending before any money is released.
Philip Griffitts, chairman of the commission, said the county was working diligently to ensure all requirements were met so the reimbursement process could move as smoothly as possible.
"We have to make sure all our t's are crossed and i's are dotted so that when we send our requests to the state and FEMA, there's no question," Griffitts said.
But even if the county was reimbursed for all the money it's borrowed so far, that wouldn't cover half of the county's total estimated damage recovery costs.
The county currently estimates it'll need to spend around $650 million in total for hurricane recovery, Griffitts said. The majority of that spending, $350 million, will be debris removal, he said.
Griffitts said that while the $650 million cost is daunting, the county could handle even more borrowing to cover the spending.
"I don't think we're at our debt limit yet," he said.
Still, the county plans to take more time before borrowing additional money for hurricane recovery.
"We'll take a small pause to make sure our financial ratios are OK ... we also think our debris spending will soon start slowing down," Ashley Stuckey, county budget officer, said at the meeting.
©2019 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)
Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.