Bond issue to finance 911 center, other projects

wpafn-logo-300By Debbie Wachter – New Castle News

Lawrence County is going to borrow $20 million for a new 911 center and various upgrades.

At their meeting Tuesday, the county commissioners unanimously approved the sales agreement for a 20-year-bond issue.

 The $20,185,000 will be used to finance the new public safety center, revamp the county’s emergency radio system and make upgrades to the courthouse, the Gettings Annex and the jail.

The bond issue also will provide funds for a capitalized interest fund, for refunding and restructuring some of the county’s debt, and to pay the cost of issuing the notes, according to a letter the commissioners received from bond underwriters Boenning and Scattergood Inc. of Pittsburgh.

County Controller David Gettings said the loan payback will not require a tax increase.

The county is refinancing another bond issue and issuing new bonds, which in combination reduces the debt service to $2 million after the first two years, he said.

“We’ll be able to take care of that without a tax increase,” Gettings said, adding the bond issue payments are budgeted already.

Michael P. Bova, managing director of Boenning and Scattergood, addressed the commissioners about the transaction Tuesday’s meeting.

Bova said the transaction includes refinancing $1,395,000 from a 2009 bond issue.

The new bond issue’s maturity date is 2034. The county will pay back $1.5 million this year, $1,738,000 next year and around $2 million for each following year of the payback period starting in 2016 until 2030, when the repayment amount will drop to $1.9 million.

Bova told the commissioners he had completed the resale of the bonds Monday to lock in the interest rates, which vary because of different maturities. They range from a low of 0.30 percent to a high of 3.70 percent, he said.

The payments will come from general revenues, Bova said Wednesday. The county will not need to raise taxes to pay off the debt, he noted, because “they did (a tax increase) last year and they will have sufficient revenues. The way it’s structured, no tax increase is anticipated.”

The county plans to build a $4 million to $5 million building on Countyline Road to house its 911 emergency dispatch center and other public safety needs. The project will include the overhaul of the countywide emergency radio system, which has an additional price tag.

Brian Melcer, the county’s public safety director, had said ground is to be broken later this year for the building, which he hopes will be completed by fall 2015.

The public safety building will sit on 42 acres off Countyline Road in Hickory Township, which the county bought earlier this year. The building is being designed by Eckles Architecture and Engineering.

Commissioner Dan Vogler commented at Tuesday’s meeting that the radio system upgrade will boost the “antenna strength” for emergency radios to give emergency units better ability to respond.

“We do have a few spots in the county (now) that because of topography are difficult to reach.”

He added upgrades also are needed to the county government buildings and to the jail, which is 24 years old and has a lot of wear and tear because “it never shuts down.”

Gettings said the jail improvements include replacement of the heating and air conditioning unit.

Robert Fisher of Robert Fisher Municipals in Pittsburgh is acting as the county’s financial adviser in the bond issue transaction. Attorney John Salopek of Aliquippa is the bond counsel.

“We are really happy with the rates that Boenning and Scattergood Inc. got yesterday,” Fisher commented at the commissioners meeting. “I was very happy with what happened.”


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