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Havre de Grace moves ahead with infrastructure bond funding, budget ordinances

The City of Havre de Grace is moving forward with the formal process of obtaining up to $15 million in bond funding to finance multiple water and sewer infrastructure projects, starting with the introduction Monday of an ordinance giving the city the ability to go to the bond market.

The City Council voted 5-0 in favor of Ordinance 1036 during its meeting Monday evening — Councilman David Martin was absent as he continues his recovery from pneumonia. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the next council meeting June 15.

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Councilman Jason Robertson told residents that the ordinance pertains to “what you all voted on back in February," referring to the city’s special election on a referendum to authorize the city to borrow the funds. Voters approved the referendum overwhelmingly, by a nearly 71 percent margin.

“This is the city going to the bond market now to receive those funds,” Robertson said of the ordinance.

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Havre de Grace officials plan to go to the market in July and conduct the borrowing through the state of Maryland, Finance Director George DeHority said during a May 18 council work session on the city’s fiscal 2021 budget.

The water and sewer projects would be funded over five years, starting with the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The city will, pending the council’s adoption of the ordinance, issue and sell “upon its full faith and credit” up to $15 million in general obligation bonds. The funds will be issued “in one or more series and through one or more issues” over five years, according to the ordinance.

Mayor William T. Martin and City Attorney April Ishak discussed when the council should adopt the ordinance, whether at its July 6 meeting, or if it should be adopted before the end of June.

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Ishak noted officials with the state’s Community Development Administration, which is working with the city to obtain the bonds, want to hear from Havre de Grace officials by early July. She recommended adopting the ordinance before the end of June to ensure officials have “a little wiggle room” in July if any changes need to be made to their documentation.

Martin said city leaders could discuss at the next council meeting, June 15, if they need to “suspend the rules” of council procedures for adopting the ordinance.

Budget ordinance

The council also introduced Ordinance 1035 Monday, laying out the city’s proposed $34.96 million budget for fiscal 2021. No changes have been made to the budget since the mayor introduced it to the council in mid-March, despite the coronavirus pandemic’s massive impact to the national, state and local economy.

“We haven’t really begun to realize the overall impact of coronavirus on the [city] budget and the revenue stream,” Council President David Glenn said.

Glenn noted that, “in all likelihood,” city leaders will have to revisit the budget in the fall as they get more information about how the pandemic has affected local revenues. Businesses have been closed or curtailed their services for close to three months, and many residents have stayed home in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

“We will keep our eyes closely [on] the budget as the fall time frame comes around, and we have more supporting documentation relative to the overall impact of the coronavirus on the City of Havre de Grace,” Glenn said.

The council voted 5-0 in favor of the ordinance; a public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 8, and the budget will be up for adoption June 15.

People can view the budget on the city website, or they can send questions via email to any city official and their questions will be directed to the finance department, the mayor said.

City meetings have, since April, been held via livestream as officials seek to limit the number of people in the council chambers to 10 in accordance with state pandemic regulations. People who wish to give input during public comment periods have either been able to submit their comments in advance to be read into the record or show up at City Hall at 711 Pennington Ave. and speak one at a time in the council chambers. Contact City Hall at 410-939-1800 for more information.

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