Oxford Borough Council reviews parking garage bids
● By Steven Hoffman
At the Oxford Borough Council meeting on Monday night, Steve Krug reviewed the bids that the borough has received for the multimodal transportation center project—the first time that the borough has had actual project costs to work with instead of just projections. As it turns out, the projections were accurate.
Krug is the architect who has facilitated the parking garage project for the borough since a parking study was completed in 2015. He explained that when the bids were received on June 26, the lowest eligible bid on the base project totaled about $7.3 million. That total includes about $404,000 in building permit fees that had to factored into the base bid. However, the borough has the option of not collecting that fee since, in this case, the developer is the borough itself. That would reduce the actual costs of the project to about $6.9 million.
That leaves a significant gap in the funding for the project for the borough to account for. A majority of council members may not support borrowing in excess of $3 million to pay for the project since the potential tax burden on residents has been a primary concern throughout the process of planning for the garage.
The fate of the project likely hinges on whether the borough can secure additional grant funding from state and county sources in the coming months.
“We're pursuing additional grant funding,” Krug said.
Krug explained that the bids that were submitted are valid for 90 days, so that would mean that the borough could award a contract for the project up until Sept. 24. The borough could also request a 30-day extension on that date, Krug said, which would move the last day to award a bid to Oct. 23. What transpires between now and that date will likely determine whether the borough can move forward on the project. If additional funding can be secured, the amount that the borough would need to borrow might be acceptable to borough officials and residents.
For most of the last three years, the borough has been applying for funding from state and county sources, and has been enormously successful in the effort. Borough manager Brian Hoover explained that the borough has a total of approximately $4,618,077 in funding already secured, which is more than 60 percent of the project's costs. That figure includes grants from state and county sources, as well as more than $1 million that the borough was gifted for a new borough administration building. A new administration building is included as part of the project.
Pauline Garcia-Allen of Econ Partners has been leading the efforts to secure grant funding for the borough. Garcia-Allen updated borough council about the most recent efforts to secure funding. She explained that the borough has been working closely with State Sen. Andy Dinniman and State Rep. John Lawrence to explore all possible funding opportunities from the state. The borough has already submitted an application for about $1.5 million in funding through the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Garcia-Allen said that they are working with Lawrence and Dinniman during the process, and the announcements for the upcoming Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding should be announced in late summer or early fall, which would work with the borough's timeline for making a decision.
Additional funding from the county is also a possibility now that the borough has actual bid figures for the project.
“Our hope is that between the state and county funding, we will be able to fill the gap,” Garcia-Allen said.
Hoover added that if the borough was able to secure an additional $1.5 million in funding from the state and county sources, it would leave about $1.7 million for the borough to account for. That's in line with what the borough could reasonably afford to take on in debt service, Hoover said.
The borough manager explained that Oxford currently estimates that about $244,754 in revenues will be generated annually from parking permits and collections from the parking meters. That would be sufficient to cover the annual debt-service payments, as well as to offset some of the costs of maintaining the garage on an annual basis. In the first few years, maintenance costs should be minimal.
Additionally, the borough would be able to rent out two suites in the parking garage structure to generate revenues. The sale of the current borough administration building would also bring in funding to the borough's coffers that could be used to offset the costs associated with the parking garage project, or for some other use.
Krug said that borough officials won't have to make any decisions about the project this month or next, but by September or October borough officials will need to decide to award the bids—or not.
Council member Peggy Ann Russell wants the borough to mail information about the project out to all the residents and property owners. The mailer would include instructions on how to find information about the project on the borough's website, times and dates of upcoming meetings, as well information about how to contact borough officials. That mailer could be sent out as early as next week.
Council member Robert Ketcham called for another public meeting specifically devoted to parking garage discussions. However, other council members were doubtful about the benefits of such a meeting at this point since the discussions have been ongoing for three years and just about every regular council meeting this year has been dominated by issues related to the parking garage.
Council president Sue Lombardi suggested waiting to see if additional grant funding is secured before planning a special public meeting. As a compromise, it seemed as if a majority of the council members were in favor of arranging another hour-long presentation before the start of of the Monday, Aug. 20 meeting if details can be finalized. The presentation, which would likely include details of the project being shared by Krug, Garcia-Allen, and Hoover, could also find each council member being able to make a brief presentation if they choose to do so. The presentation would be at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting would be at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, Oxford Borough mayor Lorraine Durnan Bell said that she plans to extend an invitation to Gov. Tom Wolf's office to have the governor tour the borough to see all the progress that has already been made as a result of Oxford's revitalization efforts, and for local officials to outline the importance of the parking garage project to the borough's future.