Westerville gets highest credit ratings as police-facility project moves forward

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
A building the city owns at 229 Huber Village Blvd. will be renovated and expanded to combine all the bureaus of the Westerville Division of Police, including mayor’s court, investigations and emergency communications (911), currently at 21, 28 and 29 S. State St., respectively, in Uptown Westerville.  The move is expected in late 2021 or early 2022.

The city of Westerville again has earned the top credit ratings as it prepares to begin construction on a $15 million Westerville police and court facility at 229 Huber Village Blvd.

The city has received an Aaa bond rating from Moody’s Investors Service and an AAA from Standard & Poor’s for debt to be issued for the construction of the voter-approved facility, according to a news release from the city.

City Manager David Collinsworth said the sustained highest ratings are rare in municipal government and represent an endorsement of the city’s commitment to responsible financial stewardship.

This distinction is the 11th-consecutive Aaa rating from Moody's, representing the highest achievable bond rating available to cities and reserved for organizations that meet the highest-quality, lowest-credit risk criteria for investors, the release said.

“For the taxpayer, this means the city will pay less for the amount of debt financed, just like the amount of interest paid in homeownership with a mortgage,” Collinsworth said. “With this project, we've been able not only to secure the best funding options, but we are also reusing an existing commercial building, lowering overall development cost by taking advantage of site improvements already borne by the original developer, not to mention the reuse of about 28,000 square feet of existing office space.”

An office building is on the location acquired by the city in 2018 for the new facility on Huber Village Boulevard. The city acquired the building and parcel for $1.9 million, below its original asking price of more than $2.5 million, according to westerville.org.

When renovated and expanded, the new facility will combine all the bureaus of the Westerville Division of Police, including mayor’s court, investigations and emergency communications (911), currently at 21, 28 and 29 S. State St., respectively, in Uptown Westerville.  

Lee Ann Shortland, city finance director, said issuing $15 million in bonds for the construction of the facility is a process of ensuring the city is carrying out the voters’ wishes in the most fiscally responsible manner.

“When we pursue a major capital development like this, we take advantage of this year-over-year rating, so we’re really keeping our promises to residents who said yes to this project,” Shortland said. “There are few cities in Ohio capable of meeting the standards we meet, and that speaks to the commitment to excellence in our financial-management strategy.”

The credit rating reports from each agency highlight Westerville’s strong financial management practices as part of the basis for the Aaa and AAA ratings, the release said. 

The city’s substantial tax base and healthy reserves also support the rating.

The full reports from each agency are available on the city of Westerville website at westerville.org/finance

Westerville voters said yes in November, 2019 to a 20-year, 0.96-mill bond issue to upgrade police and court facilities.

Construction and renovations are expected to begin later this year or in early 2021, with the move expected in late 2021 or early 2022, Collinsworth said. 

Christa Dickey, Westerville's community-affairs director, said bids were opened Oct. 1 for the project, and staff, architects and engineers are beginning their work to review and assemble the information.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla