Wildflower Court is again able to proceed with rebonding its debt after the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly declined to repeal a previous ordinance.
City Attorney John Hartle asked for the repeal to be brought to the Assembly on Monday night because there was an “appearance of conflict of interest.” The conflict is a familial relationship between Wildflower Court’s administrator and the city finance director. Two items were on Monday’s agenda regarding the topic — repeal of the old ordinance and approval of a new one following an independent review.
City Manager Rod Swope conducted an independent review of the merit’s of Wildflower Court’s rebonding request to determine if those statements held true.
The bond for Wildflower Court was issued in 1999 for $18 million at about 6.9 percent interest. The organization is seeking a refinancing of the remaining $13 million at a significantly lower interest rate of 2.4 percent. Wildflower is rebonding for $14 million — adding $1 million to the bond to add a kitchen, carpeting and other facility improvements. The refinancing is estimated to save the facility $4.2 million over the rest of the bond life.
Swope said he found the information previously presented to be accurate, and recommended the Assembly vote “no” on repealing, and also vote “no” on re-approving, since approval would be redundant.
Melanie Millhorn, president of Wildflower Court’s board of directors, asked the Assembly to vote against both ordinances as well.
She listed board members and staff who worked on the proposal that had high bonding and financing backgrounds. She also said that as the economy is entering recovery, interest rates will again start to improve.
Millhorn said the board is concerned that if the rebonding is delayed too long, the benefits of doing so will dissipate.
“Wildflower Court is financially sound and exceedingly well managed,” Millhorn said. “... In the prior two years, it ranked in the top 10 percent of the nation for staff, family and resident satisfaction.”
Assembly Member Ruth Danner was the sole voice of contention against retaining approval of the rebonding.
“There is no joy in this for me,” she said, adding the facility is good and provides a service to the community.
Danner’s concern is that Wildflower Court is a non-profit. She said that this will be the first non-profit to get funding from the bond bank. Her other concern is the original bond said they would never represent indebtedness for the city. Danner said the refinanced bonds wouldn’t hold that same stipulation.
“I think it will never be a problem that it is debt for us,” she said of Wildflower’s ability to pay. “I don’t think we should make that determination without having the discussion. I think we need to be well informed about what it is we’re doing.”
Danner also wanted to have that discussion in a timely manner, as she’d been told it’s costing Wildflower $2,000 a day for each day the rebonding is delayed.
Swope said that Wildflower Court is a quasi-governmental group and there are a number of factors that tie it to the city, where that wouldn’t be true for other non-profits.
Assembly Member Johan Dybdahl said the proposal was clearly laid out by the manager and the level of risk involved with this case is acceptable. Assembly Member Jesse Kiehl agreed with that sentiment.
Assembly Member Carlton Smith said any appearance of conflict of interest has been clarified and that the efficiencies in the proposal are apparent.
The motion to approve the repeal failed 8-1, with Danner in favor. The Assembly moved to vote “no” on the reapproval. Danner also voted against the motion.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.