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County solid waste bond rating zooms

Kevin Wiser

The financial and operational state of Western Nevada County’s solid waste system has come a long way since the troubled times of the early 1990s.

Back then, the county dump on McCourtney Road was over $50 million in the red, a debt incurred when the county was forced to borrow money to clean up the leaking landfill and bring it into compliance with state standards.

Tuesday, special counsel Michael Castelli reported to the county Board of Supervisors that refinancing of $23.1 million in Certificates of Participation issued in 1991 for the Western Nevada County Solid Waste Management System could save the county $19 million over 20 years.

Castelli said much of the projected savings were made possible by an upgrade of the solid waste system’s bond rating, which increased five levels, from BB to A-, following a Standard & Poor’s Rating Services review.

S&P ratings influence the cost of borrowing money. A low rating forces a borrower to offer a higher interest rate on its bonds to attract investors.

Castelli called the bond rating increase unprecedented, the largest he’s ever seen.

“It says a lot about how the system has turned around,” he said. “The bond rating is a ringing endorsement by S&P that our sewer system is financially healthy, well-managed, and in good operating status.”

The solid waste system encompasses approximately 682 square miles, which includes Nevada City, Grass Valley, Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, Lake Wildwood, North San Juan, Penn Valley and Washington.

In 1994, the county stopped burying trash and started shipping it out of county. The landfill is now known as the McCourtney Road Transfer Station.

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