The Lycoming County commissioners on Thursday will be presented with Marcellus Shale impact studies focusing on housing, water and sewer infrastructure, it was revealed Tuesday during a commissioners work session.
The studies, which were developed by stakeholder groups with the assistance of the county and its consulting firm, are the culmination of nearly eight months of work, said William Kelly, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Community Development.
Two other studies, focusing on transportation, social justice and education, will be presented to the commissioners in November, Kelly said.
Stakeholder groups began meeting in January with representatives of the county planning department and Mechanicsburg-based consulting firm Delta Development Group acting as moderators.
According to Kelly, the timing of the release of the second group of studies is important because the state is scheduled to begin sending out Act 13 gas industry impact fee checks in early December.
The county and its municipalities are expected to receive about $10 million this year, according the county.
The studies will show how local impact fee revenue can best be used, or be used to help make a case for revenue that may become available by the state.
According to Kelly, the studies identified conditions that existed before the gas industry arrived, then compared them to conditions that exist today as a result of the industry.
Conditions could be the same, have gotten better or become aggravated by the industry, he said.
The impact area of housing required a careful look at all aspects of housing, including temporary housing, hotel lodging, rental property supply, affordability, resale market, the supply of subsidized and public housing and population change.
The issue of water and sewer infrastructure had to take into account the fact that there already were demands for expanded water and sewer service before the industry arrived here, Kelly said.
Dr. Vincent Matteo, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the studies, especially those that focus on infrastructure.
"Without infrastructure, you are not going to get industry to locate here," Matteo said. "We have decent infrastructure now, but with the growth we see now and will see in the future, we'll want to make sure our water and sewer is up to snuff. It's critical to economic development.
"I think the studies are an excellent idea, with Act 13 in particular and the need to get the most out of (impact fee) dollars," Matteo said.
Commissioner Jeff C. Wheeland said the county wanted to quantify exactly what the industry impacts are, regardless of whether impact fee legislation was passed. Now that the legislation has been passed, the studies will show how to best use impact fee revenue.
"Obviously, the studies are very important," Wheeland said. "They really drill down, as near as we can, to the facts as to the exact impacts of the Marcellus Shale industry on Lycoming County.
"We need these studies so can quantify, qualify and prioritize the specific impacts so (impact fee) money can be spent in the most prudent manner," he added.
"The demands for the funding far exceed what is available in Lycoming County today," he said. "The challenge is how to make the beset decisions moving forward. It'll be a better tomorrow because of what we're doing today."