County considers loaning money for Route 15 water line

With the potential of a buyer taking over the former West Pharmaceuticals plant in Montgomery, the Lycoming County commissioners may consider loaning money to the West Branch Regional Authority to get water lines in place sooner rather than later, Commissioner Jack McKernan said Thursday morning.

“Economic development requires a willingness to make investments on the part of the county,” he said.

The authority completed the sewer line project, but is waiting on grant funding to complete the water lines, he said. To speed up the process, the county might loan the necessary funds and be reimbursed later.

“We’re expecting to be asked (for funding), but on a very short term,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “It would be reimbursed in a very short period of time.”

McKernan expects to talk more in-depth about the potential loan as early as next week’s meetings, he said.

“I think it’s fair to say, with economic development, infrastructure is very important,” Commissioner Rick Mirabito said. “I don’t think we have ever declined a request to do something about infrastructure.”

Though not many details can be released on the potential purchase, Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, did say the company is involved in the food industry and cannot use well water for its facility.

In another matter, the commissioners and a constituent delved into conversation on recreational marijuana in light of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s ongoing listening tour.

Mussare encouraged the audience to reach out to legislators on the issue and get involved in government, saying he does not think “it’s OK to smoke” marijuana.

Kevin Rossman, a local retired pastor, argued keeping marijuana illegal is causing expensive problems in the criminal justice system.

“We had a period in our history where we tried to abolish alcohol and we failed,” he said. “I think that what we’re trying to do is decriminalize marijuana because we have a lot of people incarcerated for long periods of time. There has been an injustice in the legal system … and that is very costly.”

“I’m not necessarily in agreement with smoking marijuana but, I think, if we decriminalize it we may solve some serious problems,” he added.

“There’s a distinction between decriminalizing it and legalizing it,” Mirabito responded. “Legalizing it basically opens it up to be into the stream of economic development. Decriminalization basically means that it would not be a criminal offense resulting in incarceration, but you might receive a fine.”

Mussare clarified that he is in favor of decriminalizing the drug, but not of legalizing it.

Fetterman will stop in Williamsport at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Klump Academic Center to get the local perspective on legalizing recreational marijuana statewide.

In other business, the commissioners approved the 2019 county liquid fuels allocations for municipalities using about $150,000 from its state share.

The county divides these funds based on miles of roads and population per municipality and adds a bonus $50 per municipal official who attends Local Technical Assistance Program sessions throughout each year.

This is the second year the county has offered bonus funds and attendance to the program is up about three times the amount over last year, said Scott Williams, transportation planner.

The commissioners also hired Megan Donahay as a full-time replacement female resident supervisor/cook at the Pre-Release Center at $16.59 per hour, effective May 5.

Their next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Executive Plaza.