York County now has the money to finish the build-out of the fifth floor of the York County Judicial Center, though county commissioners still haven't decided what they want in the project.
Commissioners on Wednesday authorized a series of bonds to refinance some old debt and to borrow an additional $6 million for the fifth floor or other projects.
Vice President Commissioner Doug Hoke, who's in favor of moving forward with the judicial center project, said Wednesday that it made sense to borrow the money now and package it with the other debt.
Commissioners are waiting for cost estimates to determine whether they'll finish a portion of the floor, which was left vacant when the building was built, or complete the entire fifth-floor renovation, he said.
Two positions: Commissioners on Wednesday also approved a $340,000 contract with York-based Buchart Horn, with which it has contracted for the final decision, bidding, and construction phases of the renovation.
The three-man board has two positions on how to proceed with the fifth-floor, with Hoke wanting to finish the entire project while work would be less expensive because the construction industry is still recovering from recession.
President Commissioner Steve Chronister and Chris Reilly have both said they'd like to move forward with only what's needed immediately, finishing a third or a quarter of the floor and postponing the rest.
President Judge Stephen Linebaugh said the need for space is dire, that justice is being delayed because there aren't enough hearing rooms for the growing caseload.
County engineer John Klinedinst in January presented the board with the results of a concept design that started last year, giving the county options ranging from $8.1 to $8.9 million depending on the number of courtrooms and other rooms to be built and furnished.
They sent Klinedinst back to the drawing board, authorizing him to get a base bid consisting of four courtrooms and one multipurpose room, as well as bid alternatives for the other options, including full build-out.
Commissioners have said they want to keep the cost to about $5 million.
Klinedinst said Wednesday that he doesn't expect to have prices to present to the board until January.
Timing of debt: Hoke, who worked for the Pennsylvania State Public School Building Authority and worked on the issuance of tax-exempt debt before he took office, said the county has waited for about two years to refinance the old debt at the best time.
Refinancing two years ago would've saved the county coffers about $1.5 million over the life of the loan, compared to saving about $2.9 million with the issuance approved Wednesday. The $40.9 million in bonds will pay off other bonds from 2003 and 2011, including a $20 million line of credit the county used to finance energy efficiency upgrades and make improvements to the York County Prison and York County Government Center, Hoke said.
David Payne Jr., director of PNC Capital Markets, said commissioners saved money by taking a "long-term, prepared approach" to the refinancing.
Interest rates are low and the county has an excellent credit rating, a Standard & Poors AA Stable rating, which means it won't need bond insurance that would've contributed to the cost.
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