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Jim Thorpe rejects public works garage bids

Borrowing power is growing tight in Jim Thorpe Borough as it looks for ways to finance two projects that have been in the works for several years.

Council officially rejected bids Thursday for a 26,000-square-foot public works garage with nine service bays, planned for property the borough owns across from the water department on West Broadway.

The low bid came in just under $3 million, which is about $800,000 over preliminary estimates.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had previously announced a $2,499,720 loan for the project, but could take another look at that funding if the garage is redesigned.

“The bids had to be rejected tonight,” Borough Manager Maureen Sterner said Thursday, “because council could not accept anything without having the additional financing in place. Council has some time now to digest it and start to think about what they want to do with the facilities projects.”

The new garage was pitched in tandem with renovations to Memorial Hall, located along East 10th Street. The work on the hall would allow the borough to move its administrative offices to a portion of the top floor of that building, while moving its police department to the bottom floor, which used to be a roller skating rink.

“We’re going to try to get something together with our building committee as soon as we can,” Council President Greg Strubinger said. “We’ll try to creatively do something to get these projects done. Memorial Hall is in need of repair. The garage is in need of repair and we’re out of room. We just can’t continue to leave buildings deteriorate.”

Sal Verrastro, of Spillman Farmer Architects, attributed the discrepancy to a low estimate on site work and inflation over the two-year period since the project was originally proposed.

“The site work was about a $300,000 difference from the budget, and that is something we should have caught,” Verrastro told council. “But high bids are a trend we are seeing. We had four projects go to bid in the last month and a half and they have all come in over budget. Had this been a year ago, it may have been a different story.”

A higher than expected bid on the garage led the borough to look at its total borrowing power, which auditors determined is $8.5 million before accounting for any existing debt service.

With revised loan estimates for the garage and Memorial Hall projects at around $6.5 million, the borough would only have $1.16 million remaining in borrowing capacity. The $1.16 million is right around the amount the borough had been estimating to borrow for the purchase of two new firetrucks.

“I find it hard to believe that is where we’re at with our borrowing power,” Strubinger said. “It doesn’t seem like we’ve undertaken a lot of big projects to put us in this position.”