Bebe Heiskell

Walker County commissioner Bebe Heiskell has extended, for an additional year, the county’s line of credit for a $6 million loan to Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe.

Heiskell signed the extension during a special called public meeting Monday, Dec. 30. Originally due to expire Dec. 31, 2013, the line of credit was jointly backed by Walker and Catoosa counties and will now reach its maturity date on Dec. 31, 2014.

The original $6 million total has been fully drawn down, according Earle Taylor of Atlanta-based firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP, which is managing the loan.

Hutcheson hospital is located in Fort Oglethorpe. Its core service area is Walker, Catoosa and Dade counties. The three counties in 1947 created the hospital, which is now more than $60 million in debt.

Heiskell’s latest signature authorizes a new, slightly higher total of $6,321,000, which compensates for the interest to be accrued, especially since the interest rate for the loan is increasing from 1.75 percent to 2 percent for the next year.

In addition to extending one Hutcheson loan, Heiskell signed another $1 million pledge to the hospital Monday afternoon, Dec. 30, citing the desire to put in place “another working line of credit” as Hutcheson has fully drawn all its currently available loans.

This second, smaller loan, furnished by Regions Bank and backed by Walker County, also has a 2 percent interest rate and its repayment will be due on Dec. 31, 2014.

On the other hand, some money will soon be coming into the county’s coffers, as the previous week Heiskell had signed the general obligation bond for the recently re-approved special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST).

The county secured a very low interest rate of 1.65 percent on its $26,400,000 bond, which, county attorney Don Oliver explained, represents 80 percent of the lowest possible expected income from the one-penny tax over the next six years.

As with previous SPLOST cycles, part of the voters’ referendum included the option to issue a bond based on projected tax collections that allows work to begin on designated projects at the beginning of the tax cycle, rather than waiting five or six years for the money to accrue.

Having funds now will be a boon for many of the slated projects, including the renovation of the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library where construction on the nearly-completed building was halted in July due to a shortfall in the previous cycle’s SPLOST revenue.