By Tia Lynn Ivey managing editor
The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) tabled a request from the Bank of Madison concerning an overdue $1.3 million loan owed by the Joint Development Authority (JDA), the four-county board comprised of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton counties, tasked with overseeing the development of Stanton Springs. The JDA was slated to pay-off the remaining balance of a 2007 loan on December 31. The JDA recently approved a hotly debated land deal with a private developer, agreeing to sell over 500 acres of land for $3.7 million dollars, garnering enough money to pay off their debt to the Bank of Madison. However, the deal is contingent on part of the land being rezoned, which the Newton County Planning Commission has denied and the Newton County Board of Commissioners has tabled until February. In the meantime, the JDA is considering alternative options to pay off the loan, but the Bank of Madison wants all four counties to pass a resolution agreeing to the institution’s terms of repayment in exchange for restructuring the loan to extend the timeframe the JDA must pay it off.
“The Bank of Madison requires that each county pass a resolution dedicating a portion of the payments in lieu of taxes from Baxalta to make the annual payments on the loan and a $600,000 line of credit until both are retired,” wrote the Bank of Madison to the JDA. The Bank of Madison wants the JDA to agree to a $136,000 annual payment, with a 10-year balloon payment of $698,595 in 2025. “The terms of the loan look good or reasonable,” said Christian Henry, county attorney. “The bank wants this done as soon as possible, since the loan was supposed to be paid off at the end of December, I think they are getting a little antsy.” However, Commissioner Ellen Warren made a motion to table the Bank of Madison’s request until their work session on Jan. 19 or a specially called meeting before then. “Honestly, I am not comfortable, myself personally, with voting on it today. I would personally like to postpone voting on it,” said Warren.
“Regretfully, the former attorney for the JDA fell short on this, but just because he fell short doesn’t mean we should vote on something without understanding it and having the chance to study it and look it over,” said Warren. Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who also sits on the JDA board, noted that the former attorney for the JDA, Tommy Craig resigned before handling the matter of the loan with the Bank of Madison. Ainslie also noted that the JDA is hoping the land deal goes through so they can take care of the loan right away instead of extending it. “This is our plan B,” said Ainslie. “This would be our option if land sale does not go through.” The BOC will review the request from the Bank of Madison and is anticipated to vote on it at a specially-called meeting after their work session on Jan. 19.