Schuylkill County to float $21.4 million bond issue for 9-1-1 center, other projects
To perform major renovations to county infrastuctures, especially the 9-1-1 Center, the Schuylkill County commissioners adopted a resolution to float a $21.4 million general obligation bond in action taken at the work session held Wednesday at the courthouse in Pottsville.
Besides the 9-1-1 Center, located a few blocks from the courthouse, it includes a new public safety system which when on-line will afford the county a more secret and expandable communications system, renovate the building on North Centre Street, across from city hall, which houses the Human Services Department and Registration and Election Bureau, because of overcrowding, plus new roofs at the county prison, located across from the courthouse, and 9-1-1 Center, and other infrastructures at the courthouse which are still being reviewed.
County Fnancial Officer Paul E. Buber claimed, "This is an excellent time for the Board of Commissioners to consider a new municipal bond market." He pointed out in in January 1970, the General Obligation (GO) bond index was about seven percent and reached a high of 13.44 percent in January 1982 but as of February 2012 it reached a low of 3.6 percent which is the lowest level in 42 years. He also pointed out the county is considered a good credit list as its current bond rating is A+.
In the resolution the commissioners named RBC Capital Markets, which is ranked first in the state and fifth in the nation for municipal securities, to be the bond underwriter/investment banker.
The county's financial team will work with the bond counsel to assist in preparing the necesssary financial disclosures and reports that are required for this type of financing and to initially purchase the bonds and then resell them in the market.
County Administrator Mark Scarbinsky said, "In order to take advantage of the presently low market finance rates this project will be coupled with the refinancing of the 2008 General Obligation Bond, the potential acquisition and renovation of an existing building, and other infrastructure uprades and improvements at various county buildings.
The county's total debt obligation will be approximately $23.1 million."
Commissioner George Halcovage, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Chairman Frank Staudenmeier, who is attending the annual county commissioners convention, stated the procedure will be for the county to adopt an ordinance, probably at its November 14 meeting, for the sale of the bond. He also pointed out the upgrading of the electronic equipment at the 9-1-1 Center to provide fire companies, police departments, and emergency medical responders with electronic communications the costs will be absorbed by the county and no cost to municipalities or taxpayers. Other counties have taxpayers pay their centers. Taxpayers do pay toward the cost of the centers on their monthly landline telephones. Halcovage said he has talked to state officials to increase the fees on cell phones to those of land phones.
Scott Krater, director of the county's 9-1-1 Center, said the 11 site towers which deliver the signals will be upgraded and many "dead" spots will be eliminated where signals cannot be received. He said the upgrading will meet the federal mandate by the Federal Communications Center (FCC) which requires that counties migrate from the existing Public Safety Frequencies to Narrowband frequencies for their public safety network .
Currently firemen cannot communicate with police or medical emergencies on their radioes. The new equipment will permit this communication with one radio instead of carrying two or three.
Both Halcovage and Commissioner Gary Hart stated that the main purposes for the 9-1-1 renovations are to protect the public and also their job to provide services to the people.