County refines list of projects for bond issue

By Kay Stephens

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County commissioners settled Monday on a proposed list of projects adding up to $7.3 million for a 2017 bond issue to be paid off with debt millage, probably in the next 15 years.

The list of projects, previously estimated as high as $9.4 million, is subject to further revisions like ones initiated Monday when commissioners assigned estimates to proposed projects for inclusion in the bond issue. Commissioners also removed a project estimated at $927,000 for the lighting of Convention Center Boulevard and Convention Center Drive.

“I don’t think it’s economically feasible,” commissioner Ted Beam Jr., liaison commissioner to the county convention center and sports facilities authority, said Monday.

The authority, which met last week, acknowledged and welcomed the proposed inclusion of the lighting in the county’s bond issue.

“It would have been a nice asset to highlight the convention center and the access to it because it’s sort of a dark zone there,” authority Chairman Richard Karcher said Monday upon hearing of the commissioners’ decision.

“But I can respect their budget and bond issues so if it can’t be considered this time, then I hope it could be considered at some future point,” Karcher said.

Commissioner Terry Tomassetti provided fellow commissioners with information showing few crashes on the boulevard and examples of other local roads with higher traffic and no overhead lighting.

If the road were being built today, PennDOT wouldn’t require it to be lighted, Beam said.

Commissioners also reduced the estimate for new voting equipment from $2.5 million to $1.5 million. The higher amount reflected touchscreen voting machines. Two lower estimates were associated with paper ballots that would be machine-counted.

Before commissioners can settle on a selection, they need to know what voting machines the state will certify, commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said.

Hollidaysburg residents Lou Mollica and P.J. Frederick, who attended and spoke at Monday’s meeting, endorsed paper ballots. Computerized voting machines cannot be made tamper-proof, Mollica said.

Additional expenses in the bond issue were linked to courthouse repairs and restoration work, which commissioners emphasized will be subject to further review and future decisions.

For instance, commissioners allowed an estimate of $698,600 to stand for proposed renovations to Courtroom 2 to be undertaken after the replacement of an aged heating, ventilating and air conditioning system at $660,000. But those renovations aren’t mapped out at this point.

For the HVAC project to be successful, consultants recommend the removal of the judicial chambers built years ago in the front center portion of Courtroom 2. Based on an earlier option, those chambers could be moved to the area used by President Judge Elizabeth Doyle and staff, which could be renovated to accommodate two judges. Another option calls for moving the judicial chambers to a jury deliberation room at the rear of Courtroom 1, which would require minimal renovations.

The bond issue estimates also include $361,500 to take on exterior repairs and restoration work for 79 windows in the two older portions of the courthouse, built in 1875 and 1906. Then in addition, the bond issue includes $650,000 toward windows, sills and masonry repairs to the 1999 portion of the structure. The $650,000 figure, Tomassetti said, includes a $250,000 contingency that may not be needed. The bond issue also includes $123,000 toward a new roof for the 1999 portion of the courthouse.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.