INDIANOLA, Iowa (AP) A judge who last month declared the Warren County Courthouse uninhabitable now says hes making plans to temporarily vacate the courthouse because of its deplorable condition.

Chief Judge Arthur Gamble informed the Warren County Board of Supervisors in a letter this week that the court was working with the sheriff and county attorney to find a new location, Des Moines television station KCCI reported ( ).

The letter comes one month after a sewage smell shut down the facility for nearly a day.

Gamble said that while there has been patch work on the courthouse, he pointed to serious mechanical, electrical and plumbing issues that could cause health and safety concerns.

We told the Board that the current condition of the courthouse impairs the ability of the court to function and fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, Gamble said in the letter. The health and safety of our court staff is at risk.

He and the court staff will likely move outside of the county until the building is repaired, Gamble said.

Warren County supervisors plan to meet with Gamble Monday morning to discuss the issue.

Last month, Gamble warned the county supervisors that the court would begin the process to compel the county to provide suitable court facilities, as required by law, if significant movement to improve conditions didnt take place.

A $35 million bond referendum, which would have allowed the supervisors to borrow money to build a new justice center, failed in early May.

There is $500,000 in the countys current budget to make repairs, but estimates provided by a consulting firm show the building needs about $2.3 million worth of repairs.


Information from: KCCI-TV,

CHARLESTON -- The states ongoing budget stalemate shouldnt keep Charleston schools from opening in August, but the district would have to borrow money to make it through the school year.

Before March, it had been a few years since Point Ruston made a payment toward millions owed to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Rather than pay the agency to oversee its complex and sprawling 97-acre urban village on a polluted Superfund site, Point Ruston instead preferred to accrue interest, according to a letter from Point Ruston's legal affairs manager, Loren Cohen, to the agency in 2010.

The federal interest rate governed the development's earlier payments. That rate plummeted to nearly zero in 2009 and has remained there ever since.

A new contract, called a consent decree, outlines when Point Ruston must pay the EPA $4.4 million, which includes accrued interest and charges dating back to 2009.

The decree, inked last month, pegs interest at 5 percent per year and mandates that Point Ruston repay what it owes by 2018. The company made a $750,000 payment toward its bill in March.

"There is nothing illegal about what they did," said EPA Superfund project manager Kevin Rochlin. "This time around we wanted to make sure we have the past costs paid."

Point Ruston is built atop some of the most polluted land in the country. For 76 years the American Smelting and Refining Co. smokestack dominated the skyline near Point Defiance. During that time it emitted plumes containing arsenic and lead, which has settled into the soil of area homes and parks.

But the biggest source of concern for the EPA is the land itself. Rather than haul off thousands of tons of dirt, EPA officials preferred capping it with a layers of impermeable liner, gravel, clay and dirt. In some cases the agency allows building foundations and roads to serve as a cap.

As construction continues at the more than $1.2 billion development, CH2M Hill employees working on behalf of the EPA are onsite to ensure the contractors build the cap in a way that will keep contamination in place. It's those oversight costs that Point Ruston in the past did not pay when billed.

Cohen said his development could not borrow money for less: "You would be making money with anything less than 3 percent. It's economics."

The new agreement also says Point Ruston must complete the cap by 2020.

Coehn said he believes Point Ruston will be able to construct the cap by then -- and possibly sooner.

Given demand for apartments and condominiums at the site, which has sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound and Mount Rainier, Cohen said: "We can't build them fast enough."

The development straddles the Tacoma-Ruston city line. Last year, the developers and the small city of Ruston tussled for months over building permits, which at times have led to construction delays. The new contract with the EPA says developers can seek relief from construction deadlines if permits are delayed.

Part of the acrimony between the town of Ruston and Point Ruston arose when the developers built a foundation without a permit from the town. Developers claimed the federal consent decree allowed them to build the cap without permits, because the parking garage's foundation is part of the cap.

The new agreement with the EPA sought to untangle the complicated web of the original agreement with Asarco and subsequent amendments into one 78-page document, Rochlin said.

"It's an amazing piece of property," Rochlin said. "There aren't 60 acres of (undeveloped) waterfront property anywhere in the area. To them it was a challenge and a way to hopefully make money."

The rating agencies like to see that under 25 percent, Johnson said. We definitely try to take the most conservative approach, understanding there could be two rate hikes this year.

The rest of Philadelphia city borrowings are locked in as fixed-rate debt. But higher rates eventually will cost taxpayers more as old bonds are paid down and new debt has to be sold at more expensive interest rates. (Philadelphia schools, the airport, and other agencies borrow independently of the city government.)

Moodys Investors Service still cut one of Philadelphias credit ratings a notch this week, downgrading a $100 million short-term variable-rate bond issue to Aa2, from Aa1.

In a report, analyst Josephine Castro blamed not the citys relatively weak fiscal or economic outlook, but its switch from BNY Mellon to Barclays as the bank backer for a line of credit designed to keep payments flowing.

Moodys lower A2 rating on the citys solo borrowings remained unchanged.

BNY Mellon had backed the variable-rate bonds since 2013 but declined to renew, effective in June.

They did not say why. Just a business decision, treasurer Johnson told me. BNY Mellon spokesman Ron Sommer declined to comment.

Of the other Wall Street banks, Barclays came back with the strongest proposal to replace BNY Mellon, Johnson said.

But Moodys considers Barclays, in combination with Philly, a bit less bankable than BNY Mellon, thus the rating cut. Johnson said the new rating isnt likely to cost the city, since these bonds are already on the market.

Credit is one of those strange industries where the less a customer can afford the product, the more it costs.

Low ratings typically are more expensive for longer-term debt. Philadelphias A2 rating has forced taxpayers to pay up to 0.81 percent extra on recent issues, compared with AAA-rated borrowers such as Chester County.

Put another way, Philadelphia taxpayers will spend up to $27 million a year extra this year to borrow money because of its less-than-perfect credit rating.

Moodys discounts Philadelphias credit because of its chronic long-term slow job growth, poverty, and underfunded pensions. It would have to fix its fiscal challenges before bond investors grant the city cheaper financing.

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