Whitehall-Coplay Press

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Board discusses complex funding

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Local News

Proposals requested for financing of $17 million emergency services site

Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners, at its workshop meeting Jan. 7, heard a proposed ordinance to borrow $10 million to begin funding the emergency services complex.

Christopher Gibbons, a financial adviser and municipal manager from Concord Public Finance of Lancaster, said the township would get a lower interest rate by borrowing $10 million in 2019 and the remainder of the project cost in 2020. The project’s estimated cost is $17,735,000.

Gibbons said the firm requested proposals for financing for either a bond issue or a bank loan that are due Jan. 10 and will make recommendations on the most financially economical option.

“The township can take advantage of low interest rates now, and we will come back with the best proposal,” Gibbons said.

He said financing would be on a 25-year repayment schedule and estimated the interest rate would be around 3-1/4 percent. He said if it is a bank loan, it would likely be a combination of fixed- and variable-rate financing.

He said the firm will make recommendations of financing at the Feb. 4 workshop meeting. The board will vote on the ordinance to finance $10 million at its Feb. 11 meeting.

Last month, the township approved Kelly, Clough, Bucher and Associates Inc., Hatfield, as architect and D’Huy Engineering, Bethlehem, as construction manager on the new 29,000-square-foot police station and renovation of the township building on the current township municipal site on MacArthur Road. Construction is anticipated to start by spring 2020.

The project’s estimated cost includes $10,000,612 for the police building; $2,570,512 for renovation of the township building; $2,304,353 for site work; $1,909,523 for out buildings; and a $950,000 contingency.

The new two-story building would have a secure entryway for safe prisoner movements, large evidence room and records storage, more office space, a training room, a public meeting room, a gym and locker and shower area.

The renovation would have the tax office, code enforcement office, recreation department, administration offices and restrooms connected to a community transaction area, where the public could easily access them.

The board also discussed a resolution to apply for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Recreation Program to help fund a pavilion in Whitehall Parkway.

Commissioner Jeffrey Warren said when the Ironton Railroad Caboose No. 6, which was in Whitehall Parkway off South Church Street, was moved near the IRT trailhead in 2012, people suggested a pavilion be put in its place.

Warren said when new funds were allocated by a Lehigh County gaming grant program to support municipalities impacted by the Sands Bethlehem Casino, he felt it was an opportunity for the township to apply for funds for a new pavilion. He said there is nearby sewer and water, so the pavilion could potentially have restrooms.

Philip Ginder, board vice president, noted the board had decided against having rest- rooms on the rail trail in the past, out of concerns that they might be “trashed.”

“We could make it restroom-ready and add restrooms later,” Warren suggested.

Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. said rest- rooms could be locked at night.

“I think restrooms would encourage additional use,” Harakal said. “I’d like to see the parkway utilized more frequently. I feel a sense of optimism that we can monitor it effectively.”

Warren said the proposed pavilion would be identical to the 44-foot-by-30-foot pavilion built at the trailhead of the IRT in North Whitehall Township last year.

The board will vote on the resolution at its meeting Jan. 14.