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$$$ for hotel? County still reviewing

Whether the county will offer financial assistance to the possible development of a hotel in Ironton remains uncertain.

At a meeting Thursday of the newly formed county Investment Advisory Committee members continued to debate on whether to provide $4 to $5 million to a private developer to bring a hotel to the city.

The committee is made up of the county treasurer, all three county commissioners and the county clerk of courts and meets monthly. Economic development leaders have said there are at least two developers considering building a lodging in Ironton.

County officials have expressed concern that county funds going to a private developer should have some type of protection since it would be a non-tax investment.

“There has to be some kind of guarantee,” County Clerk Mike Patterson said at the meeting. “We need something to boost Ironton but I don’t want to tie up the county’s money where we can’t help other entities.”

In Ohio counties can buy the bonds of political subdivisions and Lawrence County Treasurer Stephen Burcham has begun a program to do that in an effort to get a higher rate of return over what banks are currently offering on certificates of deposit.

So far the county has bought the bonds of the village of Proctorville and the Fairland school district. However since these entities receive their funding from the property tax collected by the county, that is a type of security for those bonds.

For a private economic development project the county could purchase bonds issued by a governmental entity. That entity could provide funding for those projects.

Earlier the committee had discussed whether there were any insurance policies that the developer would be required to purchase to protect the county’s money should there be a default on the project.

“It would be ludicrous to think any one of us would jeopardize the county’s money,” Commission President Les Boggs said.

For several years economic leaders have worked to bring a hotel to the city, first at a location near the Ironton Hills Shopping Center. Now they are hoping the site of the former Dennis J. Boll Group Home and Armory will be the new location.

Boggs said there was a possibility that a federal agency could guarantee up to 80 percent of the bond issue. If so, perhaps the developer could put up the remainder, the commissioner suggested.

“That is just one option,” he said after the meeting. “We are looking at an investment to bring in a motel and a few other things that would help. We see a need here and am trying to focus on this and get this done and move to projects elsewhere.”

Depending on the time of year the county has up to $27 million to invest from various funds. Right now there is $10 million in cash and about $12 million in funds available. That cash position will decrease after the remaining first-half tax collections are disbursed.

Burcham also asked the committee to come up with its recommendations as far as allocation of county funds for investments among CDs, commercial paper and bonds.

“We need to make sure the county is protected. We need to only invest 50 percent of our money in public and private enterprises,” Pratt said. “That way if we need to come up with those monies for something else, we can. Our job is to provide services for our residents in the county.”