Projects to be paid for with $724K in gas impact fees

Revenue from natural gas impact fees will be poured into streetscape improvements around the Memorial Homes housing complex and Reach Road at the city’s industrial park.

A combined $750,000 in gas impact fees’ projects were approved by City Council Thursday night, including financial assistance from Lycoming County, toward the sidewalks, curbing and curb-cuts for handicapped accessibility around the former Brodart warehouse neighborhood.

That area is the planned site of a 72-unit apartment/townhouse complex that will include two single-family houses built by Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity. The area is along the 1600 block of Memorial Avenue and surrounding blocks near Memorial Park.

The other part of the investment approved by council is the completion of the long-awaited industrial park and access roads in the city’s western end.

First, council accepted a $500,000 matching grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development, announced last week by officials at the housing site and Brodart neighborhood where improvements are occurring at owner-occupied residences.

The money will be a start on about $1.5 million worth of projects, many of which were identified by neighbors who attended meetings of the Brodart Neighborhood Improvement Project at All Saints Church on Beeber Street.

Over the next few months and years, people can expect jobs done in phases, including curbing and sidewalks, crosswalks and new lights. The projects are to be done by next June.

City Councilwoman Liz Miele is hopeful that $100,000 can be used for projects for bicyclists and to retain some of the architectural brick elements at the foot of Beeber and Oliver streets, where a half-circle is being worked on between the county, city and state Department of Transportation to make it easier for motorists navigating their way into Memorial Park area.

Improvements in the design of Memorial Pool will include pedestrian access, according to John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.

The pool is scheduled to be rehabilitated and may re-open next summer.

Another safety aspect is the through-road used by motorists to go through the park. Ideas such as speed bumps will slow down drivers, Grado said.

Discussions continue with Justin Simpson, city recreation director, regarding traffic management in the area.

As for Reach Road, Arch Street to Catawissa Avenue has been completed and Catawissa Avenue to North Reach Road has been funded by Appalachian Regional Commission funds and a city bond issue, Grado said.

Council awarded a $937,979 contract to HRI Inc. to complete North Reach Road to the park’s western terminus, along with extending a culvert that crosses Fox Hollow Run. It also approved engineering inspection work to be done by Larson Design Group.

Reach Road is so important to the economic development growth of the city and region that Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, chairman of the city public works committee, said, at one time, the city was fearful that one or two industries were going to leave because of the poor condition of the industrial park road.

Today, construction schedules are occurring simultaneously and the road is in a condition where it should have been a decade ago, according to Councilman Jonathan Williamson.

Council President Bill Hall noted that natural gas impact fees are paying for projects that otherwise might cost nearly 1 mill in taxes.

Williamson said the original estimate for the project was $1.1 to $1.3 million and it is about right on budget.