Towanda Boro seeking to borrow Act 13 funds from county
TOWANDA - Towanda Borough is seeking to borrow, on a short-term basis, some of the Act 13 dollars that Bradford County has received in order to finance the construction of the borough's planned four-story, $5 million municipal parking garage.
Towanda Borough officials announced at their most recent meeting that they had approached the Bradford County commissioners about borrowing the funds, which come from the impact fee on gas drilling.
Also at the meeting, the council passed a resolution in support of designating U.S. Route 6 as a "national scenic byway."
Bradford County commissioner Daryl Miller described the borough's request to borrow the Act 13 dollars as follows: "It would be kind of a bridge loan - just a short-term loan - so that the borough would have the money to get the project up and going."
The borough has been awarded a $5 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant to pay for the parking garage. However, the grant money isn't provided to the borough before construction begins. Instead, the state will use the grant to reimburse the borough for the cost of constructing the facility, borough officials said.
The borough would borrow the Act 13 dollars "while we wait for the RACP" dollars to come through from the state, Towanda Borough Project Manager Tom Fairchild Jr. said. It would probably be 1 1/2 years after construction starts before all the RACP dollars are provided to the borough, Towanda Borough Manager Kyle V. Lane said.
By borrowing the money from the county instead of from a bank, the borough would save almost $300,000 in interest payments. Lane said.
"I'm certainly entertaining" the idea of providing the loan, "and I think the other commissioners are, too," Doug McLinko, chairman of the Bradford County commissioners, said on Friday.
McLinko noted that the borough would have to pay the loan back in its entirety, within a short amount of time.
He said the parking garage would promote economic development in the community, and would benefit the county, too, as there needs to be more parking for people who use the courthouse in Towanda.
Towanda officials say the parking garage, which would be built behind the borough's police station, would provide at least 230 needed parking spaces for the borough.
Fairchild said that if the borough could secure additional funds, more parking spaces would be added to the garage in the form of a fifth floor.
Lane said on Friday that the borough has not applied for additional funds to add the additional floor.
Fairchild said that construction of the parking garage will probably begin in the 2015 construction season.
At the meeting, Towanda Police Chief Randy Epler said he was "not thrilled" about the location of the parking garage, which would be built close to the police station.
Epler said on Friday that, based on a very preliminary plan for the parking garage, he is concerned that the parking garage could affect the ability of his police officers to drive from their parking spaces behind the police station to emergencies in a timely manner.
He said he is concerned, for example, that his officers could be delayed by large numbers of cars exiting from the parking garage at 5 p.m. and that his officers could be forced to back up from their parking spaces and then drive around the parking garage before accessing a roadway.
Borough Manager Lane said on Friday that the parking garage has not yet been designed, The police chief's concerns "will be addressed" in the design of the garage, Lane said.
The council unanimously passed the resolution in support of the "national scenic byway" designation for Route 6.
The designation is being sought by the Pennsylvania Route 6 Alliance of Galeton, Pa.
On Friday, Lane said that the borough's zoning ordinance is already strict enough, so passing the resolution shouldn't force the borough to make additional changes.
For example, the Route 6 Alliance probably doesn't want to see billboards on Main Street in Towanda, but the borough's zoning ordinance bans billboards there already, Lane said.
Towanda Borough Councilman Bill Roof reported the borough's ladder truck is back in service after having been repaired.
Roof, who also serves as the borough's fire chief, said the fire company received a $12,800 grant from the state, which will pay for approximately half of the cost of the repairs.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.