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Washington County Attorney Matt Fuqua said he recently spoke with First Federal Bank of Florida about extending the county’s line of credit and making a portion “of that line, more than likely, a continuing bond obligation with an extended payment period.†

Discussion of a potential credit line extension came up during a Washington County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19. The possible extension could be done to keep contract work going. 

“First Federal was receptive,†Fuqua said. “We had the bond council on the phone. They said it could be done but First Federal is waiting on, basically, a feasibility study or something like that. They sound like they can turn it around pretty quickly.â€

No terms or rates have been set yet. The Board did not render any vote or make an official decision related to the matter.

A portion of $4 to $5 million will continue to be paid over time, Fuqua said.

“It’s not envisioned that the entire line will be paid off,†he said.

Board Chairman Tray Hawkins said a special meeting can be called once more information is available about the loan, rates, and terms “to dive deep into it†and “bring everything back to order at that time.†

“I would ask, Mr. Fuqua, as soon as we do have something for (County Administrator) Mr. Jeff Massey to sit down with each one of the board members so they can ask questions and maybe even make sure the loan is formatted the way they see it needs to be formatted, so we can have a clean and open discussion,†Hawkins said.

Commissioner Wesley Griffin said he was concerned about going after a $20 million line of credit. 

“Is there a process we could go through as far as, maybe, slowing work done so we ain’t got to extend the county $20 million dollars?†Griffin said.

Hawkins said all future work will be stopped until the extension comes through. 

Work could be throttled down before financial conditions “gets to this point,†Griffin said.

“I think that’s what (the extension) will permit us to do in the future, that we can start and stop at the pace that we see fit,†Hawkins said.

The county will have an “element of control we haven’t had before,†Massey said.

“I don’t personally agree with putting the county on the hook for a $20 million line of credit,†Griffin said. “I just think there’s other options as far as issuing work, slowing work down, to make sure we get our extensions on a timely matter.â€

“Now we’ve been trying to get an extension for seven months,†Griffin continued. “If we go to a $20 million line of credit to keep these contracts going and we’re seven months into it again, that’s my concern with the $20 million line of credit.â€

Commissioner Alan T. Bush said he also didn’t like the sound of a $20 million line and that there has been $11 million in debt from 1992. 

“We fought pretty hard to get debt-free and here we go in the other direction,†Hawkins said.