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Salt Lake County's good credit rating just got better, in time to use it for significant savings.

Fitch Ratings informed the county it will retain a AAA rating on general obligation bonds. Only 41 of the nation's 3,140 counties are rated that high.

In addition, ratings on bonds funded by transportation and sales taxes went up, in one instance from AA to AA+, in another from AA+ to AAA.

Each upgrade translates into noteworthy interest savings for the county on big-ticket bond issuances, chief financial officer Darrin Casper told the County Council at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

For evidence, he pointed to that morning's sale of a $22 million general obligation bond to pay for more improvements to the county's parks and recreation system.

Morgan Stanley bought the bond in a competitive bid, Casper said, charging the county 2.63 percent interest. Shortly thereafter, a bond floated by King County, Washington sold at 2.89 percent interest.

"If we paid that rate," he said, "our debt would be $40,000 more per year."

Casper predicted the county will realize savings of close to $500,000 over the length of the bond, which will pay for phase two projects authorized in 2012 when voters approved a $47 million bond for parks and trails.

"Salt Lake County's population is growing rapidly and the opportunities to set aside parks, trail and open space are shrinking," Mayor Ben McAdams said. "These next projects will give individuals and families convenient places to enjoy outdoor recreation, no matter where they live."

County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Callie Birdsall said phase one of the parks bond completed multiple sections of Parley's Trail, including The Draw tunnel under 1300 East and a stretch through Sugar House Park up to 1700 East.

Eventually that trail will connect with the Jordan River Trail, which had two sections spruced up — one between 15900 South and 16500 South, the other from 14400 South to 14600 South — and gained a pedestrian bridge over the Utah-Salt Lake Canal.

With the $22 million from the new bond sale, the county will pursue more work on those trails and complete phases of work at three regional parks — Southwest in Bluffdale, Lodestone in West Valley City/Kearns and Wheadon Farm in Draper.

Parley's Trail work next year will focus on a challenging stretch through an industrialized setting between 300 West and 900 West, including a trail over the Union Pacific Roper freight yards.

The following year, attention will turn to the Jordan River between 14600 South and 15000 South. Part of that work entails putting a 600-foot section of the Salt Lake/Jordan Canal into a pipe and building a trail on top.

Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove praised the county's financial team for improving the county's standing among financial movers and shakers.

"Sound, conservative fiscal policies have made this possible," he said, "along with prudent financial management by elected officials of both parties and our competent staff."