The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 6, 2013

Counties at odds over CSA savings

JOHNSTOWN — Cambria and Somerset counties will save about a half-million dollars by agreeing to refinance $7.5 million in bonds that provided financing for Cambria Somerset Authority projects.

The two counties could save another half-million, but it would require Somerset to guarantee 100 percent of the authority’s restructured debt.

After voting 2-1 last week to refinance in partnership with Cambria, Somerset County commissioners Joe Betta and John Vatavuk each blamed the other for failing to pursue the greater savings.

Betta voted against the shared loan guarantee, which continues the current agreement.

“We have not sat down and hammered out what it would take for us to take on the guarantee,” Betta said.

“I have difficulty understanding why six educated men can’t sit down and figure out a way to save a half-million dollars.”

Betta confirmed he was referring to the six Cambria and Somerset county commissioners: him, Vatavuk and Pamela Tokar-Ickes from Somerset and Douglas Lengenfelder, Mark Wis­singer and Thomas Chernisky from Cambria.

Betta’s support came as a surprise to Vatavuk, who said he pushed for an agreement that would require Cambria to reimburse Somerset if there is a problem with repayment.

“I couldn’t get a second vote for that,” Vatavuk said. “Until he had a turnaround, there was not any point in doing anything.

“It is a big risk, but I was willing to at least look into it and find out what it would have taken.”

Like many government agencies, the Cambria Somerset Authority checked into potential savings by taking advantage of historically low interest rates.

The issue, Somerset County Solicitor Daniel Rullo said, is that Somerset is considered a better credit risk than Cambria.

Somerset County has an A-1 bond rating, Rullo said. Cambria has no published bond rating, and the most recent rating was BBB-minus, Rullo said.

Lengenfelder said Cambria commissioners were willing to negotiate an agreement that would protect Somerset and allow the additional savings.

“Cambria County was on board to do whatever to save taxpayers money at any level,” Lengenfelder said.

Lengenfelder confirmed there were negotiations on the bond refinancing but would not say why the greater savings option was nixed.

“Everybody was discussing in good faith how we could help the taxpayers,” Lengenfelder said. “People had honest concerns.

“Negotiations aren’t public for a reason,” he added.

He welcomes the joint agreement that will save an estimated $560,000, based on recent interest rates.

“This is a good news in saving taxpayer dollars,” Lengenfelder said.

Lengenfelder and Cambria Somerset Authority Chairman James Greco both stressed that the Somerset commissioners had the final say in accepting the increased risk.

“We presented the information to them,” Greco said.

“We stayed out of it. It was not our decision to make. It was their decision.”

The authority relies on allocations totalling $1 million a year from both counties to operate and repay debt, Greco said.

It owns and manages more than 5,000 acres in the two counties, including the Quemahoning, Wilmore and Hinkston Run reservoirs.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads