CANNON FALLS - Goodhue County Board approved last Wednesday a five-year capital improvement plan for highway and building projects as well as a bonding plan to begin financing it.

The plan passed unanimously during a meeting held at the Cannon Valley Fair. The vote followed a hearing in which no one from the public spoke.

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The county originally planned to sell bonds for capital projects, but a new strategy will instead pay part of the costs with a nearly $2 million reserve in the debt service fund for 2005 jail upgrade bonds.

“To me it’s a no-brainer,” Finance Director Carolyn Holmsten said, adding that using the debt reserve would save county taxpayers more than $1.1 million in reduced interest and sales costs.

There is some question if the reserve can be used in place of additional bonding, but Holmsten said the opinion of the county’s bond counsel is that the excess levy funds can be shifted to capital projects.

Expenditures in 2014 are $8.4 million for county road and highway projects, including the long-awaited interchange at Highway 52 and County Road 9, according to a staff report. Facility projects include $1.4 million for recent upgrades at Public Works and the Government Center.

The debt reserve would completely fund the 2014 capital improvement projects and contribute around $500,000 for highway projects, Holmsten said.

The remaining $7.99 million for highways will be bonded for, with a public offering scheduled for Aug. 18, according to a resolution passed Wednesday. Commissioners will have final approval of bond offerings.

The interest rate for bonds is around 2 percent, and is not expected to change much between now and mid-August, said Doug Green with Springsted, the county’s financial adviser.

“That’s a pretty impressive number,” Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. “That’s a good number to bond at.”

Future capital expenditures begin with an expected $5.5 million renovation to the Citizen Building in 2015 and a nearly $1 million upgrade to the Justice Center in 2016.