Additional details needed on $22 million bond financing
The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners May 11 voted 5-4 to refrain from retaining financial advisors and bond council for the county’s $22 million proposed bond.
Both resolutions, introduced by Commissioners Percy Dougherty and Geoff Brace, would have approved professional services agreements with Concord Public Financial Advisors, Inc. and Stevens & Lee, PC.
Board Chairman Brad Osborne and Commissioners Tom Creighton, Amanda Holt, Marty Nothstein and Michael Schware voted in opposition to the resolutions, arguing county Executive Tom Muller and the administration failed to provide adequate information concerning the county projects the bond would finance.
Dougherty said if the board proceeds forward with the bond issue or lending from the bank, both resolutions are necessary.
“We are going to need the following two resolutions,” he said. “So, it doesn’t matter which way we go in terms of the funding.”
A total of 61 projects would be financed with the bond.
Specifically, the bond would provide financing to renovate Lehigh County Courthouse, anticipated to cost $1.6 million, as well as $1.7 million to provide updated county computer software, $1 million in repairs to Coca-Cola Park, $700,000 for farmland preservation and $400,000 for the financing of a cascade truck.
Nothstein indicated he was unable to support both professional resolutions due to unanswered questions related to the $22 million bond.
“There’s so many questions,” he said. “I’m very uncomfortable moving forward with bond financing until we receive more information from the administration.”
According to Dougherty, the two professional service agreements are intended to “put into motion the companies” looking at the bond.
“It’s not looking at the bond issue specifically,” Dougherty said of the professional service agreements. “This is not actually approving the bond issue. It’s just hiring the two companies.”
Dougherty also said any questions related to the bond issue should be addressed during bond discussions.
Schware concurred with Nothstein, stressing the board must have the projects presented in detailed form and have its questions answered fully.
“It’s kind of incumbent that we do this correctly,” Schware said. “As we heard in committee, there’s a lot of unanswered questions that I would consider basic that should have been answered.”
Schware also referred to an email the county administration transmitted earlier in the month to another commissioner, regarding the county limiting responses to certain questions.
“To me, that’s unacceptable,” Schware said.
“Certainly we need to get answers,” Schware added. “Certainly, we need to vet through each of these projects.”