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County bond burning ceremony planned Thursday
Courthouse debt paid off on July 1
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It was three and a half years ago that the then new Dawson County Government Center officially opened for business.

On July 1, officials made the very last payment on the 110,000-square-foot building, retiring the county's overall debt to less than $3 million.

A bond burning ceremony and celebration will be held in the courtyard Thursday following the county commission's 6 p.m. meeting to mark the occasion. The community is invited.

"It's ceremonial, but it signifies the great fiscal policy that we've got, the ability to pay our debt and really have very little debt left," said Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg. "You get a building that will last 50 or so years, and you don't owe anything on it. Citizens ought to feel very good about the fact that that debt's paid off and we have less than $3 million in debt left."

At $15.4 million, which came from 1-cent sales tax revenue, the cost to build the government center was one of the lowest per square foot in the state in more than a decade.

"We were at the right place and at the right time. Steel was the cheapest. We got a great, great bargain on the cost of the building, so everything kind of worked together," Berg said. "It takes planning and it takes hard work. It's not something that just happens."

While the center was overwhelmingly approved by voters as the top priority project in an extension of the 1-cent sales tax in 2007, county leaders were not always in agreement on whether to build the facility.

Now State Rep. Kevin Tanner served as county manager at the time.

"When we first initiated the project and the money was borrowed shortly after that, the economy took a dramatic turn downward," he said. "There was grave concern at the time whether or not we'd be able to complete the project and be able to pay the bonds back.

"There were many folks that were concerned that we'd have to raise property taxes in order to do that."

He credited the work of "dedicated county employees" who worked with the design and construction teams to bring the project on time and under budget.

"As a result of that team effort, this week we'll celebrate the burning of the security deed on that facility and on the bond," he said. "Dawson County taxpayers should be very pleased that their county government is virtually debt free.

"It's virtually unheard of in our state and it goes to years of good management by many different individuals, and I salute all of those individuals that have been involved with that."