County annex concept

Pictured is a conceptual drawing of Noble County’s proposed county annex building, which will be constructed west of the Noble County Courthouse.

ALBION — Noble County is advancing on its plan to build a new county annex building, taking the first steps Monday to get the substantial funding in place.

On Monday, the Noble County Council met with its financial consultant and bond counsel to discuss the next steps in readying the county to borrow to pay for the proposed two-story annex building which will be located west of the Noble County Courthouse on the site of the current Noble County Prosecutor’s Office.

Currently, county offices are spread out in more than a half dozen locations in Albion, so the county is planning the new building as a way to bring most offices into two locations on the courthouse square.

Courts, the clerk and probation departments would occupy the courthouse, while most other administrative offices would be moved into the annex.

The Noble County Surveyor’s Office is the only administrative office that would not relocate onto the square, instead heading out to the Noble County Highway Department complex on S.R. 8.

Nichole Franklin of Peters Municipal Consultants reviewed the basic details about the bond, stating that the county’s borrowing cap sits at $14.83 million, making it the maximum the county could borrow through a standard general obligation bond.

The county could potentially borrow more, but it would require a countywide referendum, something the county has aimed to avoid.

For a 20-year bond, the county would pay just shy of $700,000 in debt payments per year, with interest rates that may range somewhere between 2-5%.

In total, the county is estimated to pay $6.45 million in interest over a 20-year term.

Bond counsel Heather James of Ice Miller presented council members with multiple ordinance to introduce, which will set up the county to sell bonds later this year and thereby raise the funds needed for the project.

James noted that the $14.83 million is cited as the maximum parameters. Depending on how the project bids, the cost could be less than that ceiling amount.

Noble County has contracted with Weigand Construction of Fort Wayne as the projects construction manager and that firm will take part in bidding the project and overseeing construction.

Upon questions from Noble County Council member George Bennett, James explained that the county could make additional payments if money is available. The council previously pledged that once the annex is complete, any money raised from sale of the county’s vacant facilities would be put toward paying down the debt.

Next month, the county will need to adopt ordinances, which then sets a 30-day public comment period open for potential remonstrance of the project.

In other business Monday, Noble County Highway Department engineer Zack Smith gave updates about the county’s yearly road maintenance plan, road funding and Community Crossings project.

Due to the statewide stay-at-home order which reduced travel and therefore reduced gas tax income, Noble County is seeing a reduction in income of about $50,000, although that trend was hopefully short-lived.

Noble County is only down about 1.6% in total funding compared to last year despite the significant loss in recent months.

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