Council delays levee grant application request

City Council held off Thursday on approving submitting a $5 million grant application for levee improvements.

The reason is to get the wording right, making sure the city and Lycoming County’s roles are clear.

The $5 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant through the state Office of Budget would be about half of the estimated cost to improve the levee and get it certified.

“County, through the planning department, will very easily be able to handle the task,” Commissioner Jack McKernan, a guest at the meeting, said.

The commissioner noted the county took a conference call with the office of Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

Those on the call indicated Casey is receptive to helping find funding for the project, without making promises, McKernan said.

The application will be filed by Jason Fitzgerald, president of Penn Strategies, the city consultant.

Earlier in the week, Councilwoman Liz Miele suggested a memorandum of understanding between the city and county be approved.

William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, who has been involved in these applications for grants, said that a memorandum would be smart.

It’s a matter of cleaning up language, according to Nichols.

Fitzgerald said the process isn’t easy and involves many steps. The county will be the grantee and the city a sub-recipient.

The grant is only one part of what the partners are searching for. They also are looking for a federal grant. If the state grant is achieved, it would be used to match the federal grant, Fitzgerald said.

Estimates of between $10 million and $12 million have been placed on repairing the levee by engineers working on the project.

Partners include the city, county planning and commissioners, South Williamsport, Old Lycoming Township and Loyalsock Township.

If the levee was not certified, those protected by it would have to pay for federal flood insurance.

In a related matter, council approved a master service agreement between the city and Wood, formerly Amec, engineering firm working on ensuring parts of the levee system are working, such as back-up power for pump stations.

The agreement allows council to approve any work orders as needed regarding the levee system, a Wood spokeswoman told the Sun-Gazette.

In other action, council approved a certificate of appropriateness for Danko Holdings to have J.B. Gibbons Construction build a restaurant that would become part of the existing Liberty Arena.

Council approved police to purchase of two police vehicles for no more than $91,000 for both. Capt. Jody Miller said one vehicle will be a sport utility and another a sedan.

In city board news, Sarah Updegraff was appointed to a five-year term to the Board of Health.