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Members question using surplus versus borrowing via bonds
White Oak council awarded a contract to pave several streets that officials said are in poor condition — and getting worse — but there was disagreement on the best way to pay for the work.
At Monday’s meeting, council approved a $760,460 bid from Tresco Paving Corp. of Pittsburgh to pave Cool Springs Road, Messinger Lane, Cypress Drive, White Oak Drive and Rankin Road.
Councilman George Pambacas voiced concerns about using plans to use money from the borough’s surplus to fund the project.
“I’m thinking with my heart and I do want these streets paved,” Pambacas said. “But I think it would be in our best interest to seriously look at the bond offers that have been made or additional bonds that make economic sense.”
Borough Engineer Ken Hillman originally estimated that to pave all of the roads in most need of repair — in so-called “Category 4” and “Category 5” condition — would cost more than $3.5 million.
The roads scheduled to be paved this year represent approximately 21 percent of the total lineal footage of all the category four and five roads in White Oak, and about 22 percent of the $3.5 million estimated cost.
Councilman George Dillinger felt that the cost was too high for the percentage of roads that would be paid, especially out of surplus monies.
“Is this all the paving we’re going to do?” he said. “Because if it is, the category threes will probably be fours very soon and the fours are definitely going to be fives. And I’m not sure what the fives will be, but it will probably move into a category six if we come up with one.”
Dillinger said council last year discussed issuing bonds at 2.75 percent interest over 15 years that would have funded paving projects, new roofs for the borough and public works buildings, new trucks for the public works department, and a new HVAC system for the borough building. The bonds were not issued.
“Ever since I’ve been on council here it’s been pay as you go, pay as you go,” Dillinger said. “You can’t do pay as you go when you’re looking at $100,000 for a vehicle, a truck.
“There are some real priority things that need done in this community,” he said. “You just can’t pay cash for them all! You just can’t do it. It’s just not there.”
Councilman Lou Bender said he viewed the idea of surplus monies in a different light.
“I take a little bit of an issue with the word [surplus] because we have had things in the budget for the two-plus years that I’ve been here that we have not purchased like paving roads last year, vehicles and such,” Bender said. “To me, that’s not really a surplus. That’s things that should have been done a year ago, two years ago that we didn’t do and that money has carried over.”
Council President Chuck Davis agreed that looking into other financial options would be beneficial, but that waiting to start the project would not be in the best interest of the community.
“I want to get this on the schedule so we don’t miss another year like we did last year dragging our feet,” he said.
The motion to award the bid passed unanimously. No start date or timetable for the project was announced.
Christy Walters is a freelance writer from White Oak. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published February 18, 2020.