6-0 vote to borrow $20 million

City council approved on first reading authorizing the issuance of a $20 million general obligation bond, giving it $12 million toward refinancing and $7.2 in new money for capital projects. Council would need to approve the ordinance again in one month for it to take effect.

The council vote was 6-0, with Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith absent.

The priorities facing the city are investing in the completion of Reach Road, upgrades at Bowman Field and additional money other than federal grants funding that may go toward the completion of Trade and Transit Centre II, a 225-space parking facility to replace the Midtown deck that will be razed in early September.

It was City Council’s first reading of the ordinance Thursday night to allow the borrowing of up to $2 million.

Questions on the amount to be borrowed and spent on River Valley Transit were brought up by Councilwoman Liz Miele and Councilman Jonathan Williamson.

Council reviewed an executive summary by consultants from Penn Strategies and Rettew Associates that summarized the priority projects and recommendations by stakeholders, who see benefits in investing today, with the favorable interest rates, which are poised to potentially rise.

A top priority is improvement to Reach Road, considered the premiere and major industrial park for the county, according to Jason Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Penn Strategies. It has been suggested $1.1 million be invested to complete the reconstruction of the road that has, as a result of Marcellus Shale, created a new employee base. Companies such as Frito-Lay have expressed concern about the impact of bumps in the road on their business, Fitzgerald said.

In terms of Bowman Field, the city may spent up to $400,000 on projects, such as an entertainment area along the right field line. To accomplish this, the right field bleachers would be removed and a two-tiered level designed to create a more user-friendly space, with a concession area, bar, tables and places for patrons to stand and watch the games or events.

The city plans to double its investment to reconstruct streets.

Laura Templeton, of Rettew Associates, said pools and aquatic facilities are considered to be “break-even” in terms of their profitability.

It is one reason Memorial Pool at Memorial Park remains closed in favor of investing in the East End Pool at Shaw Place Park.

The pool is scheduled to receive a $250,000 state Department of Natural Resources grant as well as $250,000 in community development block grants.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he wants to see another $250,000 invested in upkeep of the pool, bringing the investment to $750,000.

Council will consider an option to add another $500,000 in its borrowing plan before the second reading of the ordinance.

The money would be used toward repairing the roof at City Hall or repairs at a pump station along the river. The ordinance can’t move forward until a second reading. Council continued to debate the issue at press time Thursday night.