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Development Authority considers financing Brenau projects

POSTED: April 19, 2014 11:48 p.m.

The Gainesville and Hall County Development Authority is considering issuing $8 million in bonds to pay for a new dormitory, anatomy lab and field house at Brenau University. 

A public hearing will be held prior to a vote Monday when the Development Authority meets. 

The university Board of Trustees approved the construction projects and financing in late March, calling into question whether the Development Authority’s vote has been predetermined. 

“It certainly doesn’t foretell what the vote’s going to be,” said Development Authority Chairman Philip Wilheit Sr., “although I have every anticipation that it will pass.” 

Calling the projects “exciting,” Wilheit said there should be no controversy about approving the bonds to pay for them. However, because he serves on the university’s Board of Trustees, Wilheit said he would avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. 

“I will probably declare a conflict Monday morning and not vote,” he said. 

The Development Authority is an economic development partnership between Gainesville, Hall County and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. It works to attract new businesses and expand existing private industry, often using its power to issue bonds to finance construction projects. 

Wilheit said the upside of issuing revenue bonds to pay for the Brenau projects is the low interest rate received. Revenue generated from the projects pays off the debt. 

He added that the Development Authority, which will act as the vehicle to get the bonds sold, has a willing borrower and lender identified. 

But critics of revenue bonds say they are financial windfalls for underwriters and attorneys, coming at taxpayers’ expense.


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