Mayor’s capital projects plan adds to city debt

The city administration wants to add to city debt by seeking approval from City Council to pursue debt restructuring to tackle capital improvement projects that include repaving roads and replacing the oldest downtown parking garage.

On Tuesday, the city Finance Committee was presented with a 31-page capital investment and projects plan by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and his economic development team.

The plan focuses on improvements designed to last for generations, but the city would take on $1.9 million more in debt in the process.

The plan advances projects while limiting the increase to the city’s present annual debt obligation, according to William E. Nichols Jr., city director of finance.

Natural gas impact fee money also would be used as part of the funding, Campana said.

“We’re looking at completing major elements proposed in the capital investment plan approved in 2005,” Nichols said. To pay for the projects the administration wants to refinance to take advantage of low-interest rates.

“The city would refinance the $5.6 million balance of the note and pursue the plan in the amount of $7.4 million,” Nichols said.

Annual debt service would not exceed $500,000 per year, he said.

Among the major projects in the plan are Reach Road reconstruction work, re-investment in the East End Pool and upgrades to Bowman Field, Campana said.

The plan also addresses financing for renovations to the public works property at 1500 W. Third St., the construction of the Trade and Transit II parking deck on West Third Street and funding for projects associated with Destination 2014 – the reuse of the YMCA properties.

Councilman Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the committee, said the committee would review the proposal and hold another session to go over each project.

A listing of projects to be reviewed before a decision is made includes:

Repaving Reach Road from Catawissa Avenue continuing about 1,650 feet west. Upgrades to a section of North Reach Road, from Reach Road north about 800 feet and on Reach Road from North Reach Road west to the end of the cartway. Upgrades to the industrial park access road and drainage improvements that include replacement of a cross pipe and box culvert. Construction would begin in the fall and should be done by summer 2014, according to John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.

Repair and repaving portions of public streets throughout the city, including projects scheduled to begin this summer and fall.

Renovation of East End Pool at Shaw Place Park – a project estimated to cost $750,000. The bank financing for the pool repairs has been proposed at $250,000. Construction is estimated to be completed by spring 2015.

Upgrades to Bowman Field costing about $600,000. The renovations include stadium painting, estimated to cost $25,000, replacement of existing box seating and platform area, $280,000; repair of old fencing, $150,000; a raised picnic area, $40,000, concourse expansion along the third base line, $50,000 and $55,000 for contingencies. The stadium projects are expected to extend into spring 2014.

Infrastructure improvements to the public services building at 1500 W. Third St., which are estimated to cost $820,000, with bank financing proposed at $500,000. The public works’ building was constructed in 1981. Some of the key improvements include a new salt shed, improved material storage and relocation of the recycling center.

The Trade and Transit Centre II garage, which is estimated at $9 million with bank financing proposed at $4.5 million.

The final listed part of plan is Destination 2014 – a town center with green space and a conference center accompanied by a hotel and parking space. It also will include a new arena or renovation of the existing sports arena.