The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

April 25, 2014

Buffalo Township residents question $230,000 loan

MIFFLINBURG — Buffalo Township supervisors on Thursday night voted unanimously to co-sign a loan with the Mifflinburg Hose Company, a move that some residents fear will imperil the municipality’s borrowing capacity with looming sewer line projects and raise taxes.

After an hour of heated discussion with 35 residents at a special meeting, Supervisors Joe Wise, William Zimmerman and George Young approved an ordinance to co-sign a $230,000 loan for the hose company to build a satellite station in Mazeppa.

Some of the three dozen meeting visitors badgered supervisors with questions about why the township was stretching its finances for a building it would not own, with sewer projects proposed in Mazeppa and possibly near Cowan that could reach millions of dollars.

Co-signing is merely to help the fire company get a better interest rate on the tax-free loan, said Wise, the supervisors chairman.

Buffalo Township’s taxes are a guarantee for the loan, meaning levies could increase to meet any obligation should the need arise. Wise said he was more concerned for fire protection than any risk a financial setback could pose.

With the supervisors’ signatures, the rate is set at 3.1 percent on a 10-year loan, the first six months of which would be paying interest only, followed by monthly payments of about $1,400.

The township’s co-signing the loan doesn’t obligate any of its funds to the project. However, it limits the township’s own borrowing capacity in the event it needs a loan, confirmed Solicitor Peter Matson, as it might with possible sewer projects.

That was a main issue for Linda Troup, the township tax collector who also sits on the sewer authority.

“Why do we need to guarantee a loan for something that doesn’t belong to us?” she asked Wise. “There are two big sewer projects you need to sign for, and citizens need lines to their homes. Why can’t (the fire company) pay for it?”

Wise noted the state Department of Environmental Protection hasn’t asked Buffalo Township to take on any sewer improvements at this time.

“Do we have any DEP notes saying we must provide sewer right now? No,” he said. “There is no pressing issue for borrowing money for sewer at this time.”

Responded Troup: “I want to know the money will be there (for sewer) when it’s time. I want a fire company. I want a guarantee our taxes won’t go up” as a result of it.

Exchanges became personal at some points. Lawrence Berger of the sewer authority asked if the satellite station would really be a fire department storage shed in Mazeppa, which prompted an angry Wise to counter: “I’m sorry when you address the value of human life the way you have,” that the real issue is protecting people and property from fire.

No one disputed the need for the satellite station. Among reasons for it is increased service to the Black Run Road area in the township’s north, Secretary-Treasurer Robert Beck said, which is seeing much residential growth.

The station would be built just outside of Mazeppa on land Wise said was donated to the township. The owner of Troister Farm deeded a portion of land to the municipality as well, equaling about an acre for the station.

Mifflinburg firefighters will do most of the construction, said J.D. Martin, of the hose company and who sits on the building committee.

It should cost the fire company about $130,000 to build the satellite station, said Wayne Bierly, president of the Mifflinburg Hose Company, adding it has no intention of using the entire loan amount and also would move forward with or without the supervisors’ co-signing.

About a dozen Mifflinburg Hose Company members attended the meeting, as well as members of the township’s sewer authority and many concerned citizens.

Martin said it now takes Mifflinburg about 15 minutes to respond to a call in the Black Run Road area, and that the township approached the fire company about the satellite station three years ago because of the Black Run development. Beck, however, said the station was the fire company’s idea.

Mifflinburg also now is the primary fire responder for Buffalo Township under a resolution supervisors unanimously approved.

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