Pike begins fleshing out bond issue

By DAVID HULSE

MILFORD, PA — Following a two-year effort to win the Pike County Commissioners endorsement for an open space preservation bond, county officials say the work is only beginning to determine exactly how much will be borrowed and what the bond will fund.

Responding to media questions on June 15, Commissioner Richard Caridi said the first step is drafting the language of the ballot question that will appear in November. In taking that first step, Caridi revealed that the bond would be titled the Pike County Scenic Rural Character Preservation Bond.

Caridi went on to say that the commissioners will appoint an ad-hoc committee, “separate from [the bond’s initial advocates] Keep Pike Green to represent our interests.

“If it passes…I think it will pass overwhelmingly,” Caridi said, the county will have to address how to implement the bond. “We want that structure in place now,” he said.

He anticipates that Pike voters will have questions about the bond, “and we’ll want to have intelligent answers for them,” he said.

The bond language supports up to $10 million over a 20-year bond life. Initial estimates are that cost would amount to the addition of approximately one mill to Pike’s existing 13.75 mill tax rate. “The voters will have to have an understanding of what the impact is to them personally,” Caridi said.

According to statistics provided by the Heritage Conservancy, voters in eight other Pennsylvania counties have approved similar open space bond issues, in amounts varying from Schuykill County’s $650,000 bond of 2000 to a $150 million bond approved by Northampton County voters in 2003.

Commissioner Karl Wagner said there will be a public relations effort to get the tax impact information across before the fall vote.

Keep Pike Green spokeswoman and Delaware Highlands Conservancy Executive Director Sue Currier said Keep Pike Green would be involved in that effort only so far as the group’s educational efforts would serve to encourage potential voter interest. “Our role is the same as it has been, to bring diverse parts of the community together to talk about smart growth and planning to preserve our county’s rural character,” she said.

Currier was pleased to see the county assuming the initiative in drawing the details of the bond issue. “It’s wonderful that they’re putting it before the public,” she said.