$75 Million Dollar Bond Election Nears in Andrews

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

ANDREWS- Voters in Andrews County will soon weigh in on a 75 million dollar bond to help Waste Control Specialists finish an expansion project.
"Last Wednesday when I checked my mail I saw this brochure," Rhonda Stark told Newswest 9.

Stark said the glossy mailer alerted her to the upcoming bond election. A yes vote on May 9th will give Andrew's County Commissioners the authority to move forward with a bond election that will pay for an expansion at the WCS in Andrews County designed to facilitate low-level radioactive waste disposal.

"It's a lot of money for a small community like this," Stark says she knows the project may be great opportunity for the County, but in all the provided literature she never found anything about the risks.

WCS stock and assets and 75 million dollars in stock from its parent company Valhi Incorporated, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, will be used to back the bonds. The Valhi holding company will also add another layer of protection, offering a guarantee to repay the loans.

"That is worth several billion dollars and it's that guarantee that makes the industrial corporation comfortable that the finances will be taken without any long term risk to the tax payers of Andrews," Lloyd Eisenrich, President of the Andrews Industrial Foundation, said.

Eisenrich says the money earned through the repayment of the bonds by WCS will offset loses in tax revenue from oil field companies who will likely earn far less in 2009.

The financial melt down may be partially to blame for the lack of credit for WCS but Stark argues the company also has a poor credit rating. According to Standard and Poor's, Valhi Incorporated has a ccc/negative credit rating.

"We have operated for the last ten to twelve years at a loss. Essentially trying to establish ourselves in this industry." WCS spokesperson Tom Jones III acknowledges the company has not made a significant profit over the last few years.

Still Jones says it's in the best interest of the county and the company to act quickly to finish the project because there are stimulus dollars available for waste projects. Jones also says the Radio Active Waste license issued this year by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the first of its kind in 30 years.

"It's a very good bet and as long as the Valhi holding is included along with the stock and the escrow account, it's a very secure investment for the county," Jones said.

Eisenrich says the county stands to make money because for every one dollar WCS earns the county will earn 5 cents. Jones says that cut may reach into the millions next year.

"We don't want to say we should vote against this and we don't want to say let's all go out and vote for this because we're not sure," Stark said.

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