Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Rethinking size of municipal building

Thursday, April 30, 2015 by PAUL CMIL Special to The Press in Local News

At Catasauqua Borough Council's workshop session Monday, council members seemed to shy away from a prior consensus that the proposed municipal building be as big as possible and include space for relocating the borough's public library.

Early in the meeting, borough Manager Eugene Goldfeder reported he received correspondence from the library board giving a thumbs-up to relocating at the new building.

Not so fast, said Councilwoman Debra Mellish.

"What we need to see is what the library's plans are for the future," she said. "We are looking to add a million dollars to the project and I question if the library can sustain that level of spending."

The library is supported by private donations and contributions from Catasauqua, North Catasauqua and Hanover Township. Funding does not match the expected $60,000 annual cost needed to construct the space.

Mellish received some support for scaling the project down to Plan B, which limits expansion possibilities and could nix the library option.

Councilman Brian McKittrick expressed his view that a paying lessee of the space would be preferable to moving the library to the new building.

At this point in the planning process, council needs to agree on the size of the footprint for the new building so architects can continue with design options.

Goldfeder explained his original financial projections were around $7 million. Taxes have already been raised to bring in revenues to support bond financing at that level. A larger building could cost closer to $9 million, which would necessitate some level of tax increase.

Goldfeder said he will research how much the tax increase could be and report the results at Monday's council meeting.

As Council President Vincent Smith pointed out, the project was presented with the assumption the Iron Works acreage not used by the municipal building would generate revenue.

"We don't have any indication on what kind of revenue the other parcels will generate," he said. "Any number we get on tax increases won't take into account the revenue generated by the project."

Mellish asked that a projected tax increase in Goldfeder's report be expressed as a percentage.

"Nobody cares what the average homeowner increase is," she said. "Everyone wants to know how it affects their tax bill. If the costs will go up 20 percent, then homeowners can expect their taxes to increase by that amount. It could be less, but that's a good indicator."

One option in the plan calls for space in the building not used for municipal offices, fire and police departments to be leased at market rates to provide some funding. A quick calculation showed space would need to be leased annually for $15 per square foot to cover construction costs. Goldfeder will compare competitive Class A space leasing rates to check the feasibility of the leasing option.

A vote on the size of the footprint is on Monday's meeting agenda.

Another limiting factor council must address is that the borough's borrowing power is reviewed and approved by the state to ensure municipalities do not go bankrupt.