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County sets bond sale

The Lake County Board of Commissioners has approved a pair of resolutions related to a general obligation bond sale for nearly $4.7 million to settle its account with MP NexLevel, a contractor in the construction of county's broadband project Lake Connections.

The county owes MP NexLevel more than $4.5 million for construction work the company was contracted to perform on the broadband network, and county officials want to remit payment by the March 29 due date.

Bruce Kimmel, the county's financial advisor from Ehlers Inc., told the board Tuesday, Feb. 13, the bond would count against the county's overall tax-supported debt limit of 3 percent of the county's estimated market value, but would leave more than $46 million in debt capacity remaining after its issuance. Kimmel also said the county could still bond for the final settlement with Rohl Networks and for construction of the new highway garage and remain below the $10 million tax-exempt debt limit per year.

Rohl was the main contractor during the construction of Lake Connections from 2012 to 2015. MP NexLevel was the contractor hired to finish drops to homes as well as to take over some work where Rohl left off.

On Nov. 3, an eight-person jury ruled in favor of Rohl after a five-day trial, awarding the company more than $2.08 million in its lawsuit against Lake County over payment for work performed on Lake Connections. The jury found that the county owed Rohl more than $25 million and had paid Rohl more than $22.8 million under three contracts for the construction of the broadband network.

Kimmel also told the board Tuesday that its planned sale of Lake Connections later this year could result in an improved bond issue rating with its reduced debt. Currently, the county has an "A" rating with Standard and Poor's — and an improved rating could mean better interest rates on future bonds.

Kimmel also said the proposed bond issue is the most "cost-efficient" means of achieving the needed financing and should yield the "lowest possible" interest costs while also preserving payment flexibility in the future. To obtain the lowest interest cost to the county, Ehlers will seek competitive bids for the purchase of the bonds from local and national underwriters and banks.

The county will hold a special action meeting to select the bond purchaser during its Committee of the Whole meeting at 6 p.m. March 20 at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle in August 2015. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and previously worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. He is the beat writer for the Lake County Board of Commissioners, Silver Bay City Council and high school sports in Lake County. 

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