WELLSBORO - The natural gas impact fee signed into law Monday by Gov. Tom Corbett will have to be reviewed by the Tioga County commissioners before any decision is made on whether or not to accept it.
Commissioner Erick Coolidge said personally he is for it, but he plans to read it through before making a final decision.
"The impact fee is an effort several years in the making that will allow us to invest in health and human services and community services that have been challenged by the growth of the industry, and some areas that have felt the change in an adverse way," Coolidge said.
He noted the industry has overall been a good thing for the region, and it already pays taxes to the state in "several ways."
"There are dollars that have been derived from the collection of revenue off the top for the state including for conservation, Fish and Boat, the Public Utilities Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, state Department of Transportation, the fire commissioner, the Marcellus legacy fund, natural gas energy development program, housing affordability and enhancement fund, and host counties also receive a certain balance," he added.
According to Coolidge the natural gas industry is involved in the discussion of how revenues can be disbursed.
"The industry is here for awhile and while we experience the change we will look for ways to build upon that in a positive way. This is not to be taken lightly, these dollars are critical to our community," Coolidge said.
Commissioner Roger Bunn also said he wants to study the bill more in light of a series of questions from Mainesburg resident Nick Lalic during the commissioners Tuesday meeting about recent statements made by Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko that indicate he is against accepting the fee for Bradford County out of concern it will drive the industry away.
As many as 10,000 wells could be drilled in Tioga County alone before it is all "said and done," Commissioner Mark Hamilton said he had been told by industry officials.
The commissioners have 60 days to decide to accept the fee or not.
In other business, the commissioners furloughed 13 people who work at the St. James Place clinical services, which they announced late last year would be sold to CONCERN, a private counseling agency.
The clinical services department at St. James Place will close effective Feb. 29. Those who will be furloughed include psychologist Dr. Joseph McNamara, crisis worker Gwendolyn Young, fiscal assistant Lisa Carmen, social worker Don Benelli, nurses Teresa Fairchild-Pitcher and Nita Hartman, casework manager Deanna Fish-Layton, clerk typists Cynthia Mascho and Teresa Jasper, drug and alcohol treatment specialists Carol Lavancher and Mary Kate Phinney, casework supervisor Robert Voorhees and Men Overcoming Violence facilitator Sharon Wilbur.
Other employees were transferred and others resigned.
Highland Chocolates, a county-run business, which employs people with disabilities and also was to close at the beginning of the year, still is open, according to Coolidge, because "we are trying to find a way to ensure its future and adequate support for the program."
Department of Human Services Director Max Harrison said "we continue to work on Highland. It is a matter of finding the best possible provider."
The commissioners will meet at the Tioga Borough office at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 for their "on the road" meeting.