Suffredin- An Advocate for All of Us  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions
Unsung Heroine


  Office phone numbers:  

The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.


Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.

  Cook County was created on January 15, 1831 and named after Daniel P. Cook, Member of Congress and the first Attorney from the State of Illinois.

Bond market woes cramp many institutions' construction plans
Local governments, colleges squeezed by higher interest rates

Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by James Kimberly

The Northern Illinois Proton Treatment and Research Center tried to sell bonds recently to fund construction of a cancer treatment center in West Chicago but learned a painful lesson from the economy that has hampered many other projects: Fewer investors drive up interest costs.

"By and large, there didn't seem to be any takers for the bonds," said John Lewis, center director.

Some work continues on the $159 million project in the DuPage National Technology Park, thanks to $13.3 million in federal grants and a $15 million bridge loan from JPMorgan Chase. But the delay in financing because of November's poor bond sale contributed to a temporary work stoppage at the center, affiliated with Northern Illinois University.

The center's financial problems are shared by other local taxing bodies and non-profits, from the Lake County Forest Preserve District to Joliet Junior College. The economic collapse has taken the bond market with it, inhibiting the raising of money for big construction projects.

With skittish investors unwilling to put their money in even seemingly safe bonds, markets have fewer buyers, so sellers must offer higher interest rates to make the sale. As a result, those with projects are finding they must spend more money on interest and have less for construction.

For NIU, the ramifications could go beyond higher interest payments. Under the terms of its approval from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, the center must open by March 1, 2010. Board officials declined to speculate on what would happen if the deadline was not met.

"We would have to develop some type of strategy to work with the Health Facilities Planning Board," Lewis said. "We haven't thought that through carefully yet because we are hoping it doesn't happen."

The center is committed to completing construction and intends to go back to the bond market in the next few months, Lewis said.

DuPage County also is seeing plans delayed, in part, due to the bond market. Leaders wanted to issue $190 million in bonds to pay for a five-year capital works program that would widen busy intersections and repair aged buildings at the government center in Wheaton. The bonds were to be repaid with some of the revenue from a quarter-cent sales tax increase enacted last year.

The bond issue was put on the back burner because of the market and objections raised by some County Board members who did not want the county to take on long-term debt payments at a time of economic uncertainty.

"At this point I think we are going to wait and see what happens," said Fred Backfield, the county's chief financial officer.

Kevin McCanna, president and owner of Speer Financial Inc., which frequently assists taxing bodies with bond issues, said the market is good for certain segments, such as communities with strong credit ratings that are issuing less than $10 million worth of bonds. But that represents just 4 percent of the market, he said.

Taxing bodies that want to borrow larger sums of money are finding interest rates significantly higher than they were a year ago. They also are having a difficult time finding suitable investments while waiting to spend the money, McCanna said.

"If you've got projects that have been modeled on 41/2 percent, and the broker comes in and says the market is at 4.9, maybe you wait or shelve some things," he said.

Voters gave the Lake County Forest Preserve District approval in November to issue $185 million worth of bonds for land acquisition. Originally, the district planned to sell $90 million of the bonds now and invest the money in secure Treasury bills until it was needed, then sell the remainder in two or three years.

But with the interest rates at 5 percent and Treasury bills offering around 1 percent interest, the county would lose $1.5 million on the difference in interest, said Bonnie McLeod, director of finance.

So the district decided to issue only $35 million in bonds to buy land now and re-evaluate the market later.

"Our financial adviser had indicated he hasn't seen this type of market before," McLeod said. "We'll just monitor the market and watch for a good opportunity."

Joliet Junior College had the unfortunate timing of taking $30 million of a $70 million bond issue to the market the day Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15.

"Even though we had a AA rating, we were unable to get anybody to buy our bonds," said David Agazzi, vice president of administrative services. "I was told that didn't even happen in the Great Depression."

The school had to wait until October to sell all $70 million worth of bonds, and it paid a blended interest rate of 5.76 percent, a percentage point higher than the school had anticipated.

In November, voters approved a referendum proposal authorizing the school to issue another $89 million in bonds for expansion and renovation of the school's allied health building, science building and culinary and automotive programs.

Agazzi said the school intends to monitor the market, and when it sees favorable conditions it will sell all the bonds at once.

"In the old days you could sell just what you needed and then go back out to market when you needed," Agazzi said. "Our experience scared us sufficiently that our board decided there's no way we were going to start a building and then not have the cash to finish it when we needed."

Recent Headlines

System News
Friday, May 17, 2019
Special to

Cook County Health Recognizes Mental Health Awareness Month
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Daily Herald

Skokie plans for road improvements near Edens Expressway: 'It’s desperately needed'
Thursday, May 16, 2019
Skokie Review

5 Chicago hospitals earn D grades for patient safety in new report, Northwestern slips to a B
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin: Backward Glances
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Eliminated Its Gang Database, But Advocates Say Harm Continues
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Cook County Housing Authority Proposal Targets the 'Missing Middle'
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Evanston RoundTable

Census Citizenship Question Could Hurt Citizens, Noncitizens Alike
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

News from Friends of the Forest Preserves
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Special to

Cook County commissioners get earful about soon-to-be-destroyed gang database
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Detainee dies days after suicide attempt at Cook County jail
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Chicago Sun-Times

Curious City How Chicago Women Created The World’s First Juvenile Justice System
Monday, May 13, 2019
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio

Cook County report: Sharp drop in jail population, but crime did not jump
Friday, May 10, 2019
Injustice Watch

Will Cook County be home to the next big measles outbreak? Researchers think so.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Chicago Tribune

May is Prime Time for Birding in the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
Special to

More Babies Are Illegally Abandoned Than Turned Over Through Illinois’ Safe Haven Law In Cook County
Thursday, May 09, 2019
CBS Chicago

Empty businesses may lose county tax incentives
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle

As new DCFS report highlights failures, Cook County guardian says 'inept' child welfare agency is ‘not doing its job ... at every level’
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Tribune

Cook County passes bill to stop discrimination against tenant applicants
Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Chicago Crusader

Women Jail Guards Say Sheriff’s Department Tolerated Sexual Harassment By Cook County Inmates
Monday, May 06, 2019
WBEZ Chicago public Radio

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.