Gas impact fees fueling local projects
With $8.4 million in gas drilling impact fee money flowing into Lycoming County government’s coffers in the past year, some of the most urgent core county government and community needs are being addressed, according to William Kelly, county planning department deputy director.
The county received requests for that money from numerous entities, with those requests totaling $5.5 million, he said.
Of those requests, $4.7 million was pledged by the county, which means 85 percent of the funds requested by community entities have been met to date, Kelly said.
But the money has not been just given away. Rather, the county has used the impact fee dollars – money that was determined by legislation known as Act 13 – to leverage other funds for critical projects.
“The commissioners’ goal is to help complete the funding profile for most of these projects,” Kelly said. “One county Act 13 dollar leverages about $13.75 in external projects. Our investment of $4.7 million is able to leverage or realize projects in the community whose total value exceeds $64 million.”
Kelly said 29 entities have either directly or indirectly benefited from those funds.
The county designated the merit-based awards to a diverse pool of community investments: $2.2 million in transportation; $610,000 in housing; $1.1 million in water and sewer; and $743,000 in public institutions.
“I think Lycoming County has done an excellent job in … taking our Act 13 dollars and maximizing the influence,” County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland said. “We did it right.”
The application period is closed for this year, as all impact fee dollars have been allocated or reserved, Kelly said. It may reopen next summer, depending on the amount of future funding received.
Following are some examples of how those funds have impacted the community.
Reach Road reconstruction received $117,200 in impact fee funds for engineering costs, said Stephanie Young, assistant director of community development for the city. The $1.2 million project includes drainage improvements, shoulder reconstruction and milling work. Construction should begin in May and be completed in October, Young said.
Kelly said the county has reserved up to $550,000 for the construction of this project, and while those dollars haven’t been allocated yet, the county will share the project cost equally with the city.
Elsewhere, the airport terminal project received $1 million. Combined with state and federal funds, the $13.6 million project’s funding picture is almost complete, said Mark Murawski, Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority chairman.
The impact funds will go toward a feasibility study, environmental assessment and some design work. Construction should begin in 2015 and the terminal should be open for business in October 2016.
The county has awarded impact fee dollars to the city to support the Memorial Homes development project at the former Brodart site. The county has committed $140,000 toward the remediation and demolition of the Brodart site and $200,000 for the site’s preparation and off-site improvements over a three-year period, Young said. Project cost is about $19.3 million.
Memorial Homes will be a three-phase housing development, with 74 mixed-income dwellings, including 40 apartment units, 32 townhouses and two single-family homes, Young said.
A groundbreaking for the beginning of construction is planned for Nov. 14, and construction of the apartment complex should last about a year.
In total, the county has committed $610,000 in impact fee money toward the Williamsport Housing Strategy, which includes the Memorial Homes project, the Brodart Neighborhood Improvement Program and the Grove Street Commons project, Young said.
The county applied to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for additional state impact fee dollars, and was awarded two grants totaling $2.4 million, which also will go toward the Williamsport Housing Strategy, Kelly said.
The Brodart Neighborhood Improvement Program’s cost is about $1.5 million, and Grove Street Commons’ cost is almost $6.3 million.
“The Brodart Neighborhood Improvement Program represents a partnership of city, county, STEP Inc., and Habitat for Humanity that focuses community revitalization resources in the immediate neighborhood surrounding the former Brodart site,” said Kim Wheeler, county lead planner, community development.
Water and sewer
The Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority received impact fee funds for two projects. They are the water main relocation around the new regional YMCA and the new Susquehanna Health Innovation Center, which includes extending a 16-inch main from Park Avenue to Walnut Street. The authority will receive $210,000 from the county, said Executive Director Douglas Keith.
Some work on that $530,000 project has started, and is expected to go into the spring, Director of Engineering Chuck Hauser said.
Another prpoject to upgrade the South Williamsport water main and storage tank will receive $170,000 in impact funds. The $6.5 million project includes a new half-million-gallon water storage tank, a new pump station and new water mains to be able to provide for a new mountain pressure zone.
“This will give improved water pressure for firefighting capabilities in South Williamsport and Little League,” Hauser said.
That project will go out to bid early next year, with construction beginning in early spring and finishing in summer 2015.
The Williamsport YMCA is an indirect beneficiary of the water main relocation, said River Valley Regional YMCA CEO Dave Fagerstrom, as $60,000 will be used to lessen tap-on fees it would’ve been charged, Hauser said in a previous interview.
“That kind of infrastructure investment helps the YMCA, who’s helping the community’s money go a lot farther,” Fagerstrom said.
The county will provide $130,519 for a senior activity center in South Williamsport, with a project cost of about $670,519. The borough, DCNR and STEP Inc. have partnered together on the project, and “the addition of the (impact fee) money really strengthens the project,” said STEP President and CEO Terry Roller.
They’re seeking additional funding, and if successful, will break ground in the spring, with project completion expected by next fall.
The project will expand the existing DCNR building, and improve parking at the site and across the street.