Refinancing package in the hands of council

Revision after revision has hit City Council as projects are proposed by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana – all of them needing to be paid for.

Meanwhile, city leaders try to figure out how much can be done while lower annual debt payments.

On Tuesday, the city Finance Committee reviewed a proposal by the administration to refinance the existing debt of the city, River Valley Transit and Williamsport Parking Authority to pay for several capital improvement projects.

No decision or recommendations were made by the committee, and a presentation will be given to the full body of council Thursday night by area bankers and a bond counsel representative about the alleged advantages of borrowing now with interest rates so favorable.

“We went over an initial proposal before, got a revised proposal at the last finance meeting and this is another revision,” said Councilman Randall J. Allison. “It is a lot to process.”

Councilman Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the committee, noted, in summary, the administration sees opportunity to take advantage of the interest rates to pay for a number of capital investment needs. He said the city has $7.6 million of existing debt, River Valley Transit had debt of $3 million and the authority’s debt is $2.2 million. He noted approximately $2.4 million would be he amount of long-term borrowing proposed for the city, bringing the total debt to $10 million.

“That’s the new amount requested of council by the adminstration to be borrowed for several capital projects, including proposals to complete Reach Road to the western terminus, rehabilitate parts of Bowman Field, present home by contract of the Williamsport Crosscutters, and other projects including the Destination 2014 project – the reuse of the YMCA building and block to create an all-purpose civic arena along with commercial and residential properties by partnering with a private investor Dan Klingerman, CEO of The Liberty Group.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Allison said.

At the same time, River Valley Transit is preparing to build the $9 million Trade and Transit II Centre to replace the Midtown parking garage at West Third and Laurel streets. Borrowing on that project is estimated at $4.5 million. And the authority also may try to borrow $250,000 of new debt to repair parking lots, according to Williamson.

Councilwoman Liz Miele, a member of the committee, said a factor, to be determined by council, is how much money in the long term is an acceptable amount of debt to take on relative to capital investment needs.

Council and the administration aren’t certain how much will be borrowed, but the presentation is expected to provide a full overview to the rest of the council members.

“The big question is, ‘How much money is the long run is acceptable debt?’ ” Williamson asked. “And how much of a debt payment is acceptable relative to the capital investment needs.”