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Catty council discusses bond refinancing

A bond refinancing discussion was led by Ryan Hottenstein, the borough’s bond consultant, at the Aug. 30 Catasauqua Borough Council workshop meeting.

Hottenstein presented an opportunity for council to refinance $4.9 million in 2016 A bonds. He noted this is similar to what residents would do to refinance their home at a lower rate. Adding funds to the loan to help with needed public utilities investments could also be considered and added to the principal of the bond.

There is $895,000 debt service for the borough’s bonds. It is anticipated there may be $4 million or more needed for upgrades to the water and sewer services.

If dollars are added to the refinance bond, there would be a $115,000- to $120,000-per-year increase in debt service in the “wraparound” scenario that includes possibly a $4 million addition of new funds. The financial needs could reach $7 million.

Hottenstein said there would be advertising of the bond refinancing Sept. 3. It is expected bond refinancing would be completed by early November.

Borough Manager Stephen Travers noted the potential addition of debt to provide improvements in the water and sewer plants is critical moving forward, and he recommended council move forward with refinancing with the addition of new dollars.

Councilman Paul Cmil pushed back on a refinancing plan and objected to the work estimates needed to upgrade. He alleged the borough needs are not accurately compiled. No data was presented for further discussion.

At the Sept. 13 council meeting, it is expected a vote will be taken by council on the bond refinance.

In the hearing of persons present, a resident asked about the budget regarding the swimming pool. He asked about a reported $180,000 estimate that would be a “band-aid fix” to get the pool running in 2022. A grant application request for $25,000 to develop a plan to get the pool to properly function was also discussed.

Travers said the pool needs a total overhaul. The $25,000 would examine what needs to be done to sustain the pool, guide repairs and get the pool to viable sustainability.

At an earlier meeting, it was reported the last pool overhaul exceeded $1 million. A new overhaul could be closer to $2 million, reportedly.

The resident then noted the 2020 budget for the pool was $156,000, and the 2021 budget was $41,000. He asked where that money went. He asked why those budgeted funds weren’t used toward the $25,000 plan. Council President Vincent Smith said a grant will pay the $25,000.

The resident asked about maintaining the borough park and asked why so much vegetation is allowed to grow in the creek running through it. Travers explained the state governs the stream. Permits are needed to do any work there.

The resident asked if the Department of Environmental Protection was contacted by the borough. The answer was no. The resident then said he contacted the DEP to speak with them about removing vegetation.

Lastly, the resident requested the borough not accept an open space donation of about 11 acres from the developer of the 14th Street town house project. Smith, along with Solicitor Thomas Dinkelacker, pointed out the 11 acres are not suitable for any building or development beyond passive recreation. A second resident also asked council not to accept the donated space.

A nonresident approached council about George Taylor House improvement recommendations for the summer kitchen and the house in general. She described herself as a liaison for the stonework needed at the house.

She requested a restoration of the fireplace, asking if there are bid restrictions on the number of bidders and cost of the work. The repair estimate was about $8,000.

Dinkelacker said this would require three bidders and requested the issues be discussed in committee. Travers requested the nonresident meet with him to further discuss her proposals.

A discussion of pending ordinances included the drafting of a 5G ordinance. The 5G ordinance state deadline is Oct. 28, according to Dinkelacker. There are efforts to achieve the completion of the ordinance by the deadline. This will be a permitting ordinance, not a zoning ordinance, Dinkelacker said.

Travers reported grant applications are in for the Iron Works project. The borough is currently waiting for the approval process to conclude, he noted.

There was a long discussion about truck traffic on the Pine Street bridge, but the resolution requires Whitehall Township to enact an ordinance keeping trucks off the bridge. This may take several months to achieve, it was reported.

Mayor Barbara Schlegel said the Battle of the Balloons was postponed to Sept. 12 due to weather. There are 85 school students signed up to participate.

Schlegel reported there is a wedding planned at the George Taylor House this month.

She also noted the police department is running smoothly.

In the engineers report, Nick Cross reported bids for the road plan were opened. The bid documents are being reviewed, and a recommendation is forthcoming. Awarding the bid will take place at the next council meeting.

Vice President Brian McKittrick noted there are two applicants for the vacancy as an alternate on the Civil Service Commission. A selection could take place as early as the next council meeting.

The next Catasauqua Borough Council meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 13 in the municipal complex, 90 Bridge St. It is a hybrid meeting, in person and virtual. Visit catasaugua.org for the access codes for the virtual meeting.