Share This Page

Group to suggest options to improve prison operations

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 11:57 p.m.

A member of a Fayette County group that is exploring options for a new jail warned that timing will be critical in obtaining a favorable financing rate on any bonds that may be floated to pay for a new lockup.

County Controller Sean Lally said Thursday that he has met recently with various investment bankers and financial experts to discuss the “optimal point” for obtaining favorable interest rates on bonds.

“The optimal point was yesterday,” Lally said, noting the experts advised him that rates are at an historic 30-year low.

Lally leads the group's finance team.

County Commissioner Al Ambrosini organized the panel in November to meet monthly to report on progress individual teams have made regarding ways to improve prison operations.

The group's recommendations — which will include suggestions for everything from implementing mental health and drug and alcohol programs to building a prison — are to be presented to the prison board by the end of the year, Ambrosini said.

Lally said rates on 30-year bonds were at 3.65 percent as of Wednesday.

As an example, he said that if the county were to float a $30 million bond over 30 years at 3.65 percent, the total cost would be $49.5 million. If rates were to rise by just 1 percent before the county is in a position to borrow, the same bond, at 4.65 percent, would cost $76.5 million.

“Time is of the essence to do this,” Lally said.

County commissioners have not yet discussed whether they will build a new prison.

Lally said they need to act soon, though, to begin the process of obtaining a bond to finance construction because the county must first obtain a bond rating.

Fees charged by agencies such as Moody's and Standard and Poor's for the ratings are approximately $20,000, Lally said.

Jim Killinger, who leads the architectural team, said a number of locations for a new prison are still under consideration, including sites in Dunbar and Smithfield boroughs and Franklin and German townships.

Ambrosini said one of the locations in Dunbar is near the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport, but he would not reveal the exact location. He said he spoke with Bureau of Aviation officials in Harrisburg on Wednesday about the location, and a staff member there has been assigned to determine whether it is feasible to use it.

Ambrosini said any site near the airport cannot be near flight paths.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.