The development of half of the former Rolling Hills Country Club as a municipal park continues to move forward in Peters Township.
On Monday, township council unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the issuing of $10 million in general obligation bonds, with the bulk of the money earmarked toward providing a series of public amenities at what has been christened Rolling Hills Park.
Addressing one of the projects to be financed through the bond issue, council also awarded a $340,478 professional services contract to Mackin Engineering Co. for the design of the park’s first phase.
Mackin will develop plans for an interior road to provide access to the park from Rolling Hills Drive, the yet-to-be-built street connecting East McMurray and Center Church roads through the property. Also included in the first phase, as reached by a consensus of council last year, are walking and biking trails, utility connections, a maintenance garage and a “Great Lawn” area with picnic shelters and restrooms.
Borrowing the money is coming at a good time, according to financial adviser Tim Frenz of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, with interest rates at around 2.5 percent annually for 30-year bonds issued by municipalities with a Standard & Poor’s credit rating of AA-plus, as Peters has.
“I think it makes this township look accurately exceptional,” Frenz told council. “I think it also speaks highly of the management team.”
He said that a couple of market aspects should help with the sale of bonds, scheduled for July 16.
“Volume has been picking up because interest rates have been dropping, but volume throughout this year has been surprisingly extremely low, both nationwide and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” he explained. “So there aren’t a lot of bonds to be bought.”
Meanwhile, more investors are looking to put money into municipal bonds.
“Over $50 billion in new, additional investable money has come into the U.S. market over the last six months,” Frenz said. “That’s the strongest six-month start to a year for muni investment in the last 10 years.”
The 2019 bonds will join previous issues in 2013 and 2016, along with a bank loan in the latter year, which put the township’s current debt service at about $1.3 million per year, a figure that eventually drops in half.
“It basically adds about $300,000 a year to your payment schedule,” Frenz said about the new issue.
Part of the debt about to be incurred will pay for the Phase 1 park design, for which two firms, both of which have done substantial work at the site, submitted bids. The other was from Herbert, Rowland & Grubic Inc. for $597,500, topping Mackin’s by about $257,000.
“In reviewing the proposals and also having subsequent meetings with those firms, it was clear that both firms understood the scope of the work and were comfortable with the value that they had assigned toward accomplishing those tasks,” township manager Paul Lauer said.
The township’s 2019 budget assumes $418,000 for the design, according to information provided at the council meeting.