Westmoreland County could borrow $44M for voting machines, parks, Manor, other projects | TribLIVE.com

Westmoreland County could borrow $44M for voting machines, parks, Manor, other projects

Rich Cholodofsky

Westmoreland commissioners this week are expected to finalize plans to borrow $43.9 million to buy new voting machines, refurbish the county-owned nursing home, improve local parks, upgrade emergency response communications and provide additional budget flexibility.

The financial package, which could be approved Thursday, will provide about $26.9 million to pay for the new capital projects and allocate an additional $17 million to refinance existing debt, a move officials said will save taxpayers about $1.2 million annually over the next five years.

The priciest item is expected to be $8.2 million earmarked to buy computerized machines that meet new state requirements that all counties use voting systems with a verifiable paper trail. The county has used touch-screen voting machines since 2005.

Commissioners reviewed five new voting systems and have narrowed the options to a final two. Commissioner Gina Cerilli said a final decision should come next month about which to buy. The new machines are expected to be in use for the November general election.

Money also is expected to be borrowed to remodel dining rooms, common areas, nursing stations and patient rooms at Westmoreland Manor, officials said.

“We’re trying to make it less institutional. There’s great competition in the nursing home industry, so our intent is to make it more attractive,” Kopas said.

Other projects proposed through the new borrowing include:

  • major upgrades and rehabilitation work at Northmoreland Park;
  • improvements to Cedar Creek and Twin Lakes parks in Rostraver and Hempfield;
  • about $4 million to pay for energy efficient lighting and airflow systems at the courthouse and other county properties;
  • and $4.1 million to improve radio communications for first responders.

The county last borrowed money in 2016.

Commissioners said the financing of previous debt, which also includes borrowing from 2013, will ultimately provide budget relief to the county.

The county’s $348 million budget approved unanimously in December was balanced with $7.6 million in surplus funds. That reserve account was expected to have $5.5 million left at year’s end. The budget calls for repayments of prior debt to cost taxpayers more than $22 million this year and decrease annually through 2024.

Meghan McCandless, the county’s director of financial services, said the additional borrowing and refinancing will reduce current debt repayments.

“This will benefit us immediately and spread out our debt over the life of the projects,” McCandless said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: News | Westmoreland
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