Fairfield Twp. will move forward with a pair of construction projects and a road widening, but financing the projects was not a unanimous decision.
Trustees approved a trio of resolutions last week that will take out $5.5 million in bonds to pay for the remodeling and expansion of the township police department, the widening of Gilmore Road from the roundabout to the Ohio 129 overpass, and the construction of a new service building.
Trustee Joe McAbee said he disagreed with borrowing $5.5 million “at this time” amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“This is the third time I’ve voted ‘no’ on them,” he said.
He also accused the township of trying to borrow money for these projects “under the cloak of darkness” as they have conducted recent meetings virtually. They met last week via Zoom and broadcast that meeting on Facebook Live, as many other communities across the state have. The township has discussed the police department project for more than a year and the service station and Gilmore Road project for multiple years.
Trustee Susan Berding said she “took exception” to McAbee’s implication “because we have been open for business.”
“We have been taking questions and comments, and (township administrator) Mrs. (Julie) Vonderhaar, she’s always been quick to respond in a timely manner,” Berding said. “We haven’t shut anybody out.”
McAbee hasn’t disputed the need for the projects, just the price tags.
“We shouldn’t be spending that much money,” said McAbee. “We have enough money now to pay (cash)” for the Gilmore Road project.
McAbee said last month the construction projects were not essential to do at this time, but the other two trustees disagreed.
Berding acknowledges McAbee had some “valid points” concerning the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but said financial experts have estimated a smaller financial risk for the township as they count on the more reliable property taxes, unlike cities that rely on sales taxes.
While the township can pay cash for the Gilmore Road project, “I think what we’re trying to do is to protect our general fund in case that is needed,” said Berding. “(Property taxes are) not able to be forgiven or abated, so I feel good about that revenue stream. And as far as these projects, these are all essential projects.”
McAbee, however, insisted it would be “more prudent” to wait 60 to 90 days to see how the pandemic has impacted the community. Interest rates were dropped drastically because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and township officials previously said rates might not be as low as the 1.99 percent quoted by Huntington Public Capital Corp. in two or three months.
Last month, trustees approved 2-1 to contract with Cincinnati United Contractors for the design and construction of the service building and police station projects. The service station will be built adjacent to Fire Station 212, which CUC constructed. The police station will have a 3,500-foot addition built, and the 3,500-station will be remodeled.
Trustees approved with McAbee objecting to a fourth resolution that would consolidate funding for the projects into a single bond. Pat Woodside, the township’s bond counsel with Frost Brown Todd, said this action will issue the financing for the projects as a single bond and will “reduce administrative costs.” Payments will be made twice a year, the first one to be made in November.
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