County gets A-plus credit rating

Barnwell County received an A-plus credit rating after a review by a major rating agency.

In early November, Barnwell County councilmen Freddie Houston and Keith Sloan - along with county administrator Pickens Williams Jr. and a team of financial lawyers - went to New York City and made a presentation to Standard and Poor's, one of the big three credit-rating agencies.

Standard and Poor's defines an A-plus rating as a "strong capacity to meet financial commitments, but (is) somewhat susceptible to adverse economic conditions and changes in circumstances."

The highest rating is AAA.

The rating was announced during the regular council meeting Dec. 10.

Williams said the rating is good for a small county like Barnwell that has seen companies leave and has a high unemployment rate. He said the travel cost to New York was included in the attorneys' fees.

The review was part of the process the county is going through in order to get $10 million in installment-purchase-revenue bonds. The county plans to use the bond to pay of debt, finish renovations to the county administration building and construct a new wing at the county jail.

The bond is for 25 years. The county was originally slated to pay back just under $9 million in interest if the bond reached maturity. But during the meeting, Williams said the interest rate ended up being lower than expected. It is set at 4.27 percent, which means the county would pay a total of $6 million in interest if the bond reached maturity.

The bond can be paid back before 25 years, which would save the county money. Williams said bidding on the bond will close Dec. 18.

Council Chairman Houston said a lot of work went into putting together the presentation, and he commended Williams, Sloan and the financial lawyers for their hard work. Houston thanked Williams for the job he did and presented him with a plaque of appreciation from council.

"Without a shadow of a doubt ... I believe we got one of the finest administrators that you can find," Houston said.

Council also voted to award Williams a $500 bonus for his efforts.

Williams said he put around 50 hours of work into the presentation.

In other business:

Council tabled the third reading of an ordinance to amend the county's flood-damage-prevention ordinance. Council decided to make sure they know how many people will be affected by the ordinance before passing it.

Council approved the second reading of an ordinance amending the 2013-14 fiscal-year budget - a total of $354,125 in new revenue and expenses.

Council appointed three people -- Loraine Patrick, Alan Mulligan and Bob Hundley - to the hospital board. Each individual represents one of the county's three school districts. They are the only members on the board and will deal with any issues still pending from the sale of the hospital.

Council went into closed session to discuss a pending lawsuit involving the county hospital. After the session, council voted to accept its attorney's recommendation regarding a settlement.