Commissioners Approve Issuance of $65.3 Million General Obligation Bonds, Receive Praise for Aaa Bond Rating
The March 20 business meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners featured several items related to the county's new Justice Center, the largest capital project in Bucks County government's 331-year history. Before Director of Operation Jerry Anderson provided an update on Justice Center construction (approximately 40 percent complete), Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW unanimously approved the issuance of $65.3 million General Obligation Bonds, Series of 2013, for the purpose of providing funds for and towards financing a capital program.
A majority of the bond proceeds will be directed toward the Justice Center, which is scheduled for substantial completion by early summer, 2014, at its current construction pace. Mr. Anderson provided a timeline look at the building's erection, which reached a major milestone on March 5 when the top piece of structural steel was hoisted into place over the building's Main St. entrance. To mark that occasion, the commissioners joined members of the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas to autograph the last piece of steel. Currently, more than 100 e-verified workers are on the site on any given day. Pre-cast wall panels are part of the ongoing work.
According to county Director of Finance and Administration David Boscola, the $65.3 million bond issuance actually will net the county approximately $75 million to devote to various projects, which also include bridge repair and maintenance and preservation of open space and farmland. Commissioner Martin thanked the "professionals" who worked on the bond issuance, which included underwriter's counsel Curtin & Heefner, LLP, of Morrisville and bond counsel Saul Ewing, LLP, of Philadelphia. Members of that team praised the commissioners and county administration for maintaining an Aaa rating from Moody's Investors Service, noting the significance of being able to hold Aaa status "in this tenuous economic climate."
During the resolution portion of the meeting, the board approved 33 contract resolutions involving 13 county departments and tabled three other items for further consideration. For the county Agricultural Land Preservation Program, the board unanimously signed off on the county's $233,741.20 portion of a 151.78-acre agricultural conservation easement on the Cook Farm in Durham Township. The farm is located at the very north end of the county (near Riegelsville) with commanding views of New Jersey, and it is a productive farm that features 80 acres of corn. The owner, Patricia Cook, hopes to reach out to Delaware Valley College student to offer them acreage to conduct experimental farming. The farm was ranked 8th of 55 Agricultural Land Preservation applications during 2012, and it is the 156th farm preserved since 1989 - totaling 13,811 acres.
The meeting also featured the preservation of 64.19 acres of Municipal Open Space in Buckingham Township, on behalf of the Estate of Walter Trycieki. The county's share of $427,053 represents 32 percent of the appraised value, which lies in a protected corridor of Buckingham and Solebury townships. Buckingham Township Supervisor Maggie Rash attended the meeting to thank the board for its support of land preservation in her municipality.
For General Services, Chairman Loughery and Commissioner Martin approved three change orders with Justice Center General Contractor Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. (over Commissioner Marseglia's dissent). The first was a $74,505 increase for winter concrete costs, the second a $22,800 increase for costs associated with the armory structure that is integrated into the building design, and the third was a $40,116 increase for stabilization costs associated with the armory preservation. According to Mr. Anderson, the project currently is running $456,000 over budget - or 0.78 percent of the total. To date, 18 general contracting change orders have been on Commissioners' Agendas.
The board also tabled three items: an $896,180 contract renewal with Tabor Children's Services to provide life skills education programs; a $32,704 contract with Verizon Business Network to provide voice and network services for the Juvenile Probation satellite office in Quakertown; and an electronic collection and recycling contract with eLots Electronics Recycling for the Planning Commission. The board did sign off on a one-year, $175,000 contract with Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. to provide collection of household hazardous waste materials. Commissioner Marseglia also voted against a $115,238 renewal of the county's Public Officials & Employment Practices liability policy.
The meeting opened with a proclamation (read by Commissioner Martin) for the 10th anniversary of the county's Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force. According to the county District Attorney office, a total of 1,009 cases against senior victims were prosecuted last year. Former Assistant DA David Zellis accepted the proclamation along with Consumer Protection Director Mike Bannon and Judge Diane Gibbons. "We have been able to protect those citizens who are not able to protect themselves," Judge Gibbons explained.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, in the Community Room (1st Floor) of the Bucks County Courthouse, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown, PA 18901. For a complete audio account of the March 20 meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the "Audio from Last Mtg" link on the home page.