Carlton County Board prepares for additional justice center bonding

Increasing rates have the Carlton County Board preparing to approve $27.5 million in bonds for the proposed justice center at its next meeting, March 28.

FILE: Carlton County Transportation
The Carlton County Transportation Building.
Izabel Johnson / 2021 file / Pine Journal

CLOQUET – During its special committee-of-the-whole meeting, Monday, March 21, the Carlton County Board of Commissioners made a recommendation to vote on issuing $27.5 million in bonds for the proposed justice center at its next meeting.

As bonding rates are ticking up, Kathy Kortuem, former county auditor and representing the auditor's office, said rates are still historically low.

"Bond prices are just going and they have been going up gradually," she said. "With what we know now, yes we should jump on it."

Kortuem said the county wants to take advantage of every savings it can, without putting itself in a bad position.

The county has already bonded for $10 million and has asked the state Legislature for $22.5 million in funding for the project.


One aspect Kortuem told the commissioners to watch for is overbonding, which is why the county is not bonding for the rest of the project as it waits for possible funding from the state.

Kortuem said it is not only expensive to overbond, but the county could run into some trouble with arbitrage.

Commissioner Gary Peterson asked if it is good to bond now as it is seen as more secure than the stock market and the county could secure better rates.

Chuck Upcraft, senior managing consultant for PFM Financial Advisors, the county's financial consultant, explained to the board that the increased demand has shown an upward trend of rates this year.

When asked by Commissioner Marv Bodie if more bonding would have an impact on the levy before the local action sales tax referendum in November, Kortuem said no.

"The principal payments don't start until after the vote in November," she said. "We are structuring it so we will know if the sales tax is approved, and then the principal payments will start after that."

The board will formally vote on whether to approve the additional bonding during its regular meeting March 28.

Marketing campaign

In other county business the county will also hear a proposal during its meeting Monday, March 28, on a contract with Swim Creative, a marketing agency, to help disseminate information about the proposed justice center.


Sheriff Kelly Lake said the contract would come in between $25,000 and $27,000, and would get information to voters about the justice center before the local action sales tax referendum.

"We want to make sure we are getting the correct information out there," she said.

Lake said the contract would include creating videos, public service announcements and infographics to make it clear to voters how the local action sales tax vote would impact them.

Lake and other county staff were clear this was for informational purposes only and the county would not be campaigning for or against the sales tax.

The information would outline the project as well as list how voting either in favor or against the referendum would affect voters.

"It is so important that people understand it," she said.

After an hour of comments and discussion with over 40 residents, Board Chair Ruth Janke said the township will take the ordinance back to the drawing board.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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