ATLANTIC CITY — The Atlantic County Improvement Authority has voted to issue as much as $145 million in bonds for the Stockton University portion of the Atlantic City Gateway Project, with a maximum of $60 million guaranteed by county government.

Stockton will guarantee up to another $85 million, said ACIA Director John Lamey after the authority took public comment and a vote on the bonds Thursday.

Lamey called the county guarantee the last hurdle for the financing package. The Atlantic County freeholders are expected to vote on it at their Tuesday meeting.

He said the bonding amounts are “not to exceed” numbers, but actual bonding amounts are expected to be lower based on estimates of the developer, Atlantic City Development Corp.

“The bonds won’t be issued until we are confident in the determination of the cost,” Lamey said.

South Jersey Gas’ new $50 million headquarters is also part of the A.C. Gateway Project, and it was separately awarded about $12 million in state tax credits. But county and ACIA officials stressed none of the ACIA bonds and none of the county guarantees will be used for any part of the South Jersey Gas building.

Some residents of Hammonton and Folsom, where South Jersey Gas has been located for about 45 years, have questioned the use of state tax credits to move the company and its 167 well-paid employees from one end of the county to another. They have said it will harm businesses in the county’s western end and hurt the housing market as some South Jersey Gas employees move to be closer to work.

Hammonton resident Jim Donio, long a critic of the move, was the only member of the public to speak at Thursday’s meeting. He again questioned whether South Jersey Gas is in fact paying for all the cost of its headquarters.

It is being constructed on top of a $35 million, 886-space parking garage that is part of the Stockton project. The garage portion is in part funded by bonds under the county guarantee.

But ACIA Bond Counsel John Cantalupo, of Archer and Greiner out of Red Bank, Monmouth County, said South Jersey Gas is paying $6 million toward the construction of about 200 parking spaces it will utilize and contributing another $3.8 million toward extra strengthening of the foundation of the garage. That extra work is necessary for the garage to hold the company’s six-floor headquarters atop it, he said.

The Local Finance Board unanimously approved the bonding at its Wednesday meeting, Cantalupo told the ACIA board.

“It’s a 10-year piece,” said Cantalupo of the county’s guarantee. That portion of up to $60 million would be paid for with the sale of state tax credits awarded to the Stockton project.

“The purchased amount would be signed over to pay for the bonds,” Cantalupo said of the tax credits. “You would have to have a failure of the state for the county to have to step in and pay.”

Cantalupo also said that under law, no portion of the South Jersey Gas building can be covered by the bonds, as the they are tax-exempt with strict rules governing what they can cover.

Contact: 609-272-7219

Twitter @MichelleBPost

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