WELLSBORO - The Tioga County commissioners unanimously approved implementation of the natural gas impact fee, which will impose a fee on Marcellus Shale deep wells, taking effect immediately, during their Tuesday meeting.
The fee will be based on the number of wells drilled in the county last year and the price of gas per 1,000 cubic feet harvested from those wells.
Roughly $6 million will be disbursed by the Public Utility Commission to the county by the end of the year for distribution to areas that have been impacted negatively by drilling, such as roads and housing.
The state first took 40 percent off the top to distribute among its agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection and others.
Commissioner Roger Bunn, though he voted for the fee, said he was "uncomfortable that we are getting money from companies for business they did in a prior year."
Commissioner Mark Hamilton said the implementation of the fee was "a really big deal for property tax payers and could have a significant impact on curbing tax increases in the future."
Hamilton noted there are 13 areas the funding can be used for, every one of them areas that have been identified as impacted areas by both county and local governments.
Hamilton said it would be the commissioners job to work with community groups "to understand the drawdown allotted to us and also the new grant funding that will be created."
"If we work together as a community, we will be able to get a lot more of those dollars," he added.
Commissioner Erick Coolidge said "there isn't a funding stream at any level that hasn't been challenged financially, not one," in the declining national economy.
"The impact fee allows all 67 counties in some way or another to enhance these shortfalls in revenues. We need to use what we have wisely. Without the impact fee, the number was zero," he said.
He reminded those in attendance again that the county "didn't plant it, didn't grow it and we aren't harvesting it - it is a gift."
In other business, the board:
Presented $26,990 in county marketing initiative grants funding from county bed tax money to the Nelson Volunteer Fire Department, Endless Mountain Music Festival: Wellsboro Community Concert Association, Mansfield Growers Market, Fabulous 1890s Weekend; Potter-Tioga County Maple Producers, Blossburg VIBE, Mill Cove Association, Second Chance Animal Sanctuary, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Snowmobile Club and the Liberty Blockhouse Festival.
Approved $111,000 in liquid fuels funding for county aid to municipalities with the deadline to apply June 30, for funds to be disbursed Nov. 1.
Approved a five-year lease between the state Department of Transportation and the county Emergency Services Department for use of the Dutch Hill communications tower between May 6, 2012, and May 5, 2017, for $660 per year.
Heard from Sheriff Tom Young and Court Administrator Nancy Clemens there will be a lockdown drill at the courthouse March 30 in the afternoon for purposes of public safety.
Approved the use of the Green from 6 to 9 p.m. May 25 for an American Cancer Society Relay for Life mini-luminaria ceremony.
Approved a resolution making application for $232,655 in state Community and Economic Development Program funding to be invested back into various municipalities' programs and projects.
Announced the next board meeting will be an "on the road" meeting at the Bloss Township building March 29.