City council approves Barton financing plan |

City council approves Barton financing plan

Elaine Goodman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday voted 4-0 to help Barton Health finance two projects with a combined cost of about $13.6 million.

The city is not putting any money toward the projects. Instead, the city is acting as a “conduit” or middle-man in the transaction so that tax-exempt bonds can be issued to refinance the projects, officials said.

Banc of America Public Capital Group and Siemens Public Inc. will finance the projects and will be repaid by Barton. Because the bonds will be tax-exempt, they can be issued at a lower interest rate, saving Barton money.

In a report to the council for Tuesday’s meeting, city attorneys Jacqueline Mittelstadt and Patrick Enright said the arrangement is allowed under California’s government code.

The attorneys noted that the city has previously helped Barton finance capital projects, as recently as 2006.

The agreement would not affect other borrowing by the city, the attorneys said.

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The funds will be used to refinance Barton projects that are mostly completed, including two medical office buildings for an annual cost savings of about $80,000, Barton Chief Financial Officer Dick Derby said in an e-mail. Barton’s 5,550-square-foot rehabilitation facility will also be covered by the financing.

Derby noted that all costs and financial responsibilities will “flow through” to Barton, and the city is providing no financial support.

Councilman Hal Cole, who sits on the Barton board of directors, recused himself on the matter.

– The council approved a $17,000 increase in the police department budget to reflect the receipt of funding from an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

The funds will be used to buy safety equipment for the police department’s SWAT team – including a paint-ball-like training system.

Other equipment will include mirrors, lighting, communications devices and less-than-lethal weapons.

– The council approved establishment of an underground utilities district for Sierra Boulevard.

– Tempers flared when Councilman Bill Crawford chastised council members Kathay Lovell and Bruce Grego for meeting with the city attorney on Monday. Crawford contends that council members should notify the rest of the council if more than one council member plans to participate in a meeting.

“Every time it happens I’m going to call people on it,” Crawford said.

A meeting involving two council members is not subject to the provisions of California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, because a majority of council members is not involved. South Lake Tahoe’s City Council has five members.

Lovell complained about a phone message Crawford left her regarding the meeting, and accused him of bullying her because she is a woman.

“We have every right in the world to go meet with staff,” Lovell said.

Crawford called Lovell’s accusation of bullying “ridiculous.”