CHICAGO - A proposal released this week by Hamilton County, Ohio, commissioners would expand the powers of the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to increase the amount of debt it can issue annually for a greater variety of projects across a larger area.
Under a draft motion released this week by Hamilton County commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper, the Cincinnatiport authority could issue a mix of taxable and tax-exempt debt to finance a variety of borrowers across Hamilton County. The authority could also act as a land bank for abandoned lots - which are growing along with the county's foreclosure rate - and operate river and rail cargo terminals in order to generate revenue.
The move comes after a few years of discussion among city and county leaders over how to restructure the authority and expand its power to reflect other Ohio port authorities. The eight-year-old port authority is currently authorized to issue a limited amount of revenue bonds, and its chief duty is to oversee the local brownfield redevelopment program and help secure federal funds for certain projects.
"The current port lacks the powers and authority necessary to effectuate all of the kinds of development needed in the county," Portune and Pepper wrote in a motion to expand the authority's powers that will go before the board within the next 30 days. "This proposal will ... allow for the Cincinnati-Hamilton County port development authority to enter the ranks of Ohio's fully functional ports."
The commissioners also noted that the authority's ability to act as a land bank of abandoned properties would help the county's current foreclosure "crisis."
Under the county proposal, the authority's board would be reduced from 18 members to 10, including some municipal finance professionals, and current president Kim Satzger would stay on as director.
Portune has been quoted in local reports as saying he hopes a reshaped authority would be able to issue $100 million in bonds annually.
The proposals would enable the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds with up to 30-year maturities to finance industrial, nonprofit facilities, government, and land-bank redevelopment projects. Taxable bonds with 20-year maturities would be permitted to finance commercial projects.
Under the proposal, the city and the county would contribute $2.5 million to start a $10 million bond fund reserve, with the balance "to be raised via any one of numerous sources," according to the motion.
The county motion would have the authority hire a financial adviser, an underwriter, and bond counsel as well as secure a letter of credit from a local bank to begin financing the bond fund program.
The county board and the Cincinnati City Council will vote on the motion within the next 30 days. A council committee has already passed a resolution in support of the expanded powers.