Environment a concern at final town hall

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette State Representative Garth Everett uese pie charts to explain the state budged during the fifth and final Town Hall Meetings at the Eldred Township Volunteer Fire Company Tuesday.

Issues tied to the environment were foremost on the minds of several residents attending a town hall meeting in Eldred Township Tuesday night.

Property taxes and the state budget also were discussed during the last of five such events hosted by state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, in recent weeks.

Rob Barbour questioned Everett about needed roadwork along Route 87.

He said the state departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection are not on the same page about remedying the problem caused by a gravel bar in Loyalsock Creek.

Everett, seeking re-election to the 84th state House seat in November, acknowledged that more than $750,000 has been spent fixing the road.

“I would certainly hope you would look into this,” Barbour said.

Everett said it can be difficult to get state agencies to work together.

Barbour said it’s a problem that needs a permanent solution, not just a band-aid.

Karen Frock, of Plunketts Creek Township, told Everett she’s concerned about the construction of gas lines on state lands near her property.

She said construction of gas gathering and water lines could create a wide swath of clear-cutting along hillsides.

Everett acknowledged that PGE is considering such a pipeline project.

He said he’s proposed holding a public meeting to discuss the plan.

Frock said the intrinsic value of the the land is at stake.

“There is going to be a lot of concern there,” she said.

On another environmentally related topic, Everett was asked about possible contamination of Antes Creek near Jersey Shore.

He said he approached DEP several times about the issue involving a discoloration of the water.

It was noted that two quarries are located along the stream.

“They are meeting requirements,” he said. “I’ve had DEP up there four times.”

Everett said he continues to push for legislation to ensure people receive their fair share of gas royalties from companies drilling on their properties.

He said it’s been an issue for many people across the state.

Ron Snell, of Barbours, told Everett he favors legislation that would eliminate school property taxes.

It would mean, he explained, raising the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent and the earned income tax by 1.88 percent.

Everett said property tax elimination is simply not an altogether popular approach, especially in areas of the state such as cities with a fewer percentage of property owners.

Everett said education spending continues to increase every year.

“We spend a lot of money on education,” he said.

Everett said the biggest challenge facing the state is the pension deficit.

The $85 billion debt for state and public school employees has been left to the state and school districts to pay off by the year 2035.

Everett said the state this year passed legislation to provide $60 million to school districts for school safety.

Each district, he said, can spend their allocations on school resources officers, security infrastructure or other safety issues.