LEWISTON – Seeing was believing for Moody’s credit analysts.

The bond rating agency gave Lewiston’s latest $21.3 million bond debt an “Aa3” rating – one of the top four ratings given by the agency. It’s the fourth year the city bonds have received that rating.

Analyst Geordie Thompson visited Lewiston last week to complete the review. Analysts normally just review financial documents for bond issues, unless a city’s financial situation is changing.

“When we see money going for a lot of economic development, we like to see firsthand what’s behind all of it,” Thompson said. “We only go if we feel that it will help with our analysis.”

The agency also gave its highest rating to a short-term bond notes sale of $3.04 million to pay for renovations at the Colisee.

Higher ratings allow the city to qualify for a lower interest rate when it sells its general obligation bonds, reducing the city’s debt payments. Last year, the city refinanced bonds for a better interest rate, saving an estimated $138,000 each year for 10 years.

City Finance Director Dick Metivier said city officials gave analysts a presentation about city economic development projects, followed by a brief tour of public and private developments.

“We invited them to come,” Metivier said. “This is the largest debt issue the city has ever done, and we wanted them to have the full story.”

This year’s $21.3 million bond issue includes money to pay for work at the city’s southern gateway project and for the Bates Mill exit strategy, in addition to annual road work and capital project spending.

“It was important for them to get a firsthand impression,” Metivier said. Stops included the Colisee, the Bates Mill Enterprise Complex and a quick visit to the site of Wal-Mart’s pending distribution center and the nearby Plourde Office Park.

In the city’s credit report, Moody’s analysts “anticipate the city’s financial operations will remain sound…” They cite conservative budgeting, strong cash reserve accounts and steady economic growth.

Moody’s, which reviews credit status for some 22,500 municipalities nationwide, last visited Lewiston 10 years ago. The city was trying to get its credit rating upgraded from A1 status at that time.

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