BRISTOL BOROUGH >> The Bristol Borough Council voted unanimously on September 14 to pay off its outstanding debt on the Grundy Arena.
The borough will use part of the $4 million in proceeds from the sale to pay off its $3.7 million in outstanding debt and will invest the remaining sale proceeds - $250,000 - for the future recreational needs of the borough and other projects.
The payoff of the debt will save the borough 8.5 mills a year in debt service and will result in a 15 percent decrease in the annual property tax rate beginning in 2021.
In addition, for the first time in almost 40 years, the building will be returned to the tax rolls with the school district, the borough and the county benefiting from accessed taxes.
“This is an outstanding deal,” said Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe. “The taxpayers of this town are going to save 15 percent on their taxes and we’re putting a property back on the tax rolls.”
In August, council and the authority, which oversees the arena, agreed to sell the facility to the Black Bear Sports Group, a privately-owned company that owns and operates 16 indoor ice rinks in six states including Bucks County Ice in Warminster and Ice Land in Hamilton Township, N.J.
Based in Bethesda, Md., Black Bear was founded in 2015 and is led by CEO, Murry Gunty. Gunty is a lifelong hockey fan who founded Black Bear based on combining his turnaround experience in a broad array of industries with his passion for the game of hockey.
According to its website, Black Bear's goal is to save older rinks by investing capital to bring their facilities up to modern standards and provide great programming for its hockey and figure skating communities.
The rink had been a source of financial strain for the borough for years, costing it thousands in upkeep and maintenance and strapping the town with longterm debt.
“This building has been a white elephant for the taxpayers of this town for a long time,” said DiGuiseppe in August. “By selling this rink, we’ll be able to give everyone a reduction in taxes. And our debt service will drop from 8.5 mills to three-tenths of a mill.”
In other action at its September 14 meeting, Council approved a motion to enter into discussions with Verizon to locate a cellular tower at the borough’s sports complex on Jefferson Avenue.
Verizon is proposing to pay the borough $28,000 annually plus a five percent increase each year to lease a small corner of the property located along the railroad tracks just beyond the right field line.
“It’s going to go up somewhere in that area whether we like it or not. They have a dead spot and they need to fill that gap,” said DiGuiseppe. “The question is do we want $28,000 a year and put it in right field or do we want someone else to get the $28,000 and we still get the tower?”
Casino Grant Funding
In other business, council voted to apply for casino grant funding for the following purchases and projects: paying off a county loan for the purchase of new police radios, the purchase of police body cameras, the purchase of a new police vehicle and public works vehicle, paying off a county loan for rescue squad radios and relocating a pedestrian path at Beaver and Pond at PennDOT’s request.
Also at its September 14 meeting, Council voted:
- To apply for a DCED multimodal grant for $1.264 million for the Maple Beach bridge replacement project.
- To hire Lisa Pullen as full-time administrative clerk from a pool of five candidates.
- To purchase a 2021 Ford with snow plow through a CoSTAR bid for $43,781. The truck will replace a 15 year old vehicle with a bent frame.
- To extend the guidelines for outdoor retail sales and outdoor dining in the borough through May 1, 2021.
- To accept public works director George Waldron’s retirement. His last day of work will be October 29 with his retirement effective on March 1, 2021.
- To purchase a new police car on a Co-STAR bid for $25,000.
- And to establish a stop sign at Mill and Basin Streets.
Also during the meeting, emergency manager Merle Winslow reported that he spoke with Amtrak regarding heavy overgrowth along the train embankment between Otter Creek and the Green Lane Bridge.
The overgrowth hasn’t been addressed since a cleanup of the embankment in 2012, said Winslow.
“At that time they took down all the trees, all the shrubs and got everything like it used to look years ago. It’s all overgrown now. The grass is taller than myself,” he said.
Winslow said he reached out to an Amtrak supervisor who said that his assistant would be coming out with a crew to cut down and cleanup the area between Otter Creek and Green Lane.
“They haven’t been out yet, but we were going to be put on a scheduled,” said Winslow.