Schuylkill Commissioners Poised to Approve $6 Million Bond for “Capital Project”
Schuylkill County Commissioners are set to vote Wednesday morning on whether or not to approve $6.11 million in bonds (or general obligation notes) that will be used to pay for a county “broadband project” and other expenses related to a still somewhat mysterious “capital project”. The measure will have Commissioners agree to two bonds – one taxable and one tax-emempt – totaling the $6.11 million.
The county seems to be calling these bonds the “2020 GO Notes”.
Commissioners will get together at 10 a.m. Wednesday to vote on whether or not to approve the bond measure. Passage is likely as two Commissioners, Republicans Boots Hetherington and George Halcovage, previously signaled their support for it and this “broadband project”.
As it’s written on today’s Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting agenda, the $6.11 million will be used for 3 purposes:
- The “planning, design, purchase, acquisition, construction, repair, replacement, renovation, reconfiguration and improvement, and related appurtenances, and suitable fixtures, furnishings and equipment therefor, as applicable of 9-1-1/microwave communication/broadband project for public safety within the county.
- “To reimburse itself for expenditures made for such capital project from the proceeds of the (bond) notes.”
- “Paying the costs of the issuance of the (bond) notes.”
Schuylkill Commissioners also plan to spend $25,000 to hire a financial advisory firm, PFM Financial Advisors, to provide their title service in relation to the GO Notes. The County also wants to spend $13,500 on an attorney specific to the bonds.
More 9-1-1 Spending? Or the Same with Different Money?
What’s unclear is how this project, as explained on the agenda (noted above), differs from the money the County agreed to spend from the CARES Act fund for upgrades to the 9-1-1 center earlier this year.
On Oct. 7, the Commissioners agreed to spend more than $855,000 for the following, as it was spelled out to the public:
“Civil site work and two direct embedment monopoles and a thermobond communications shelter along with an emergency generator … This is the civil work necessary to provide interconnection between the alternate dispatch centers at the Porter Township and Fire School locations (the two direct embedment monopoles). Each of these locations will be connected by microwave to the County 9-1-1 Center enabling public safety grade operation of these alternate locations.”
A month prior, the Commissioners OK’d $2.8 million more on “critical network infrastructure to support 9-1-1 services” and that also came from the CARES Act money.
At the time these decisions were made, however, it seemed the Commissioners were confused on what they were purchasing. Gary Hess wondered why the 9-1-1 upgrades from the CARES Act money were being introduced in bits instead of all at once as a cohesive project.
The term “broadband” was bandied about each time Commissioners agreed to spend that money earlier this year. So, what is this new broadband project “for public safety”? Or is it even a new “broadband” project?
The cost of the money the County agreed to spend from the CARES Act on the 9-1-1 project as it was known just a few months ago was about $6 million, the value of the GO Notes they plan to approve this morning.
If it’s not the same project just using different money, it means the County will have spent about $12 million on a “broadband project” that almost no one can plainly explain.
Here’s the rest of the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, including important cal-in information to listen in via the County’s Zoom line.
To join Wednesday’s meeting:
- Dial 1-301-715-8592
- Enter Meeting ID: 954 9689 6043 followed by the pound (#) symbol
- Enter the Meeting Password: 069881 followed by the (#) symbol
- Schuylkill County Agrees to Spend $855K More on 9-1-1 Project
- Schuylkill Commissioners Divided But Approve Spending $2.8M More on County 9-1-1
- Schuylkill County Using $2.197 Million in CARES Money for Backup 9-1-1 in Case of COVID