QUAKERTOWN, Pa. – Quakertown may borrow as much as $28 million to pay off existing bonds and fund new projects, taking advantage of low rates and investors’ quest for yield.
Borough council approved the plan Wednesday, but further votes will be needed before new debt is sold and capital projects are funded.
Vice President L. James Roberts Jr., who leads council’s revenue and finance committee, said that new bonds would pay off a $4.3 million debt left from a 2012 issue and pay for big projects such as work on Juniper Street, the borough pool, a new playground and improvements at Quakertown’s sewer plant. Each step will be reviewed separately.
“None of these things will happen without the approval of council,” he said.
Borough Manager Scott McElree said that Quakertown may end up paying just 1% to bond buyers, thanks to the borough’s credit rating and the low-rate environment.
The U.S. Federal Reserve System has pushed interest rates down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to boost the economy. Final terms of the Quakertown borrowing have not been set.
The bond plan and details of other proposals raised Wednesday were discussed at an earlier public work session.
McElree also reviewed the operations of the borough pool, which will close for the season at the end of the day Monday. He said that council’s decision to open the pool, with limits on attendance because of the pandemic, was a success.
“We knew there would be challenges this year,” he said.
The borough limited daily passes to residents of ZIP codes served by the Quakertown Community School District to ensure that local people could get in, as many other public pools were closed.
With no deadline on the coronavirus pandemic, the borough could be in the same position in 2021.
“If this does happen again next year, we know we have a plan that works,” said Douglas Propst, chairman of the parks and recreation committee.
The council approved the start of a new play area, just northeast of Panther Playground. Propst said the initial cost would be $1.02 million. The new playground was designed by Kompan A/S, a Danish company that operates in the U.S.
McElree said that Panther Park will be removed. Some of the wood will be reused, and the rest may be suitable for bonfires or controlled blazes for fire department training if it does not contain chemicals. The total cost of the new park will be about $1.5 million, McElree said.
Councilman Dave Wilsey said that the wooden playground has provided 27 years of use, and he thanked the residents who contributed to its construction.
“The people who put up money got a big bang for their buck,” he said.
Propst also put forward a plan for improvements at the War Memorial off Mill Street, with cost of materials limited to $20,000. Council President Donald Rosenberger appointed a committee to solicit contributions for the work.
The borough is also preparing to burn illegal drugs. Health, safety and welfare committee Chairman Michael Johnson said drugs, paraphernalia and other evidence seized by police will be destroyed.
McElree, who is also the borough police chief, said that when legal items of value are seized they can be sold at auction, but the material being held now has no value.
Johnson’s committee also forwarded the borough’s proposed noise ordinance, which would place limits on amplified sound from restaurants that are licensed to serve alcohol and bars. Johnson said that a public hearing must take place before the ordinance can be enforced.
McElree swore in a new fire police officer, Brenden Keller. The fire police are volunteers who assist at emergency scenes.