Delaware News

Port authority bond deal will help YMCA


The Delaware County commissioners voted 2-0 Thursday, Nov. 15, to approve issuing $10 million worth of Delaware County Port Authority revenue refunding bonds for the Young Men's Christian Association of Central Ohio.

Under the Ohio Revised Code, port authorities are given powers in the areas of real estate development, financing and management of foreign trade zones.

They can also issue low-interest, tax-exempt bonds in behalf of a private entity for the construction of new facilities or equipment.

YMCA Chief Financial Officer Nina Jackson told commissioners the port authority's issuance of refunding bonds would lower her organization's existing interest rate on an $18-million loan obtained in 2002 for improvements at several central Ohio YMCAs by 3 percentage points.

"We'll save $200,000 in the first year alone on interest that we will be able to use to fund programs," Jackson said.

"We're just elated to be able to put that money back into the many communities that we serve."

County Economic Development Director Gus Comstock said he was impressed with how quickly the port authority and the county were able to move on the bond issuance.

"The request came in Monday, I think, the authority met on Tuesday, and the commissioners approved it today," Comstock said.

"The port authority is a lean, mean refinancing machine," he told commissioners.

Port Authority Board Member Larry Cline said the YMCA bond issuance was a cooperative deal with the Franklin County Port Authority.

"This project was a little too small for the Franklin County authority and we agreed to take it on," Cline said.

"We went through, I won't say reams of paper, but many, many sheets of paper and were able to get it done quickly," he said.

"This is one small step in our overall goal of greater regional cooperation."

The Franklin County Port Authority has millions of dollars at its disposal to loan at advantageous interest rates in order to stoke economic development.

Delaware's Port Authority -- founded in 2006 and operated by a five-member board -- is much smaller, more a facilitator than a big player at this point.

"But it's important to get our name out there as an authority you can work with," Comstock said.

"I think activity like this falls under the umbrella of Columbus 2020 and the greater regional cooperation we'd like to establish," he said.

"It doesn't behoove us to steal from Franklin County or they from us."

Comstock described the port authority as "one of 15 or so tools in our economic development tool kit."

He said it's a valuable tool because as a financial facilitator, the authority doesn't put any county funds at risk.

Mark Kamer, the YMCA's bond counsel, said the initial YMCA loan helped pay for improvements at YMCAs throughout central Ohio, including in Gahanna, Hilliard, Grove City and Liberty Township.

"There are no new monies involved with your approval and you are not endorsing the project by voting yes," he said.

"The YMCA is the sole credit risk. Neither the county nor the port authority is responsible in any way for repayment of the bond."

Commissioner Ken O'Brien abstained from the unanimous vote because he is a YMCA board member.