More than $1 million in natural gas impact fees will be used to pave and repair 25 of Williamsport's streets this fall and next year, enabling the city to get twice as many projects done as in years before, city officials said.
"We're doubling the amount of investment because of Marcellus Shale impact fees," said John Grado, city engineer and director of community and economic development.
On average, he said, the city spends between $500,000 to $600,000 and has not had the chance to use such fees.
Gas impact fees, those derived from taxes on local gas wells, will enable more to be done and less dependence on the city's general fund, community development block grants or liquid fuels allocations, he said.
The cash infusion has the administration geared up and wanting to see more. In December, the city was notified it received an initial payment of $539,421 and in July it received $505,672.
Although the city has been notified of the payment, City Council needs to approve the second gas fee installment, according to Grado.
Many of the streets and curbing have not been touched in several years, according to Mayor Gabriel J. Campana.
"This gives us an opportunity to improve our neighborhoods and to use dollars to address streets and curbs that have needed upgraded for many, many years."
As soon as he learned about the gas impact fee allocation, Campana said he wanted it to go into street reconstruction starting next month.
"It's our share of the money taken from the tax on gas wells that are within a certain number of miles from the city," said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director.
"The gas impact fees are critical to pay for continued reconstruction and to keep pace with the city's five-year goal of continuing to improve the streets," Grado said.
"There will be an allocation every year," Nichols said. "I don't know if it will be as much as we received in the first payment, but it continues to be a stream of revenue. It's an opportunity to catch up on needed street improvement."
It couldn't have come at a more opportune time, with higher petroleum and project costs and fewer dollars arriving for the community development budget, Grado said.
"The gas impact fee allows us more than the traditional amount that's allocated for street improvement," Nichols said.
Driving up costs
Grado said the price per ton of asphalt and labor is driving up project costs.
He estimated it costs 10 percent more to complete one mile of street reconstruction.
Besides the gas impact fees, the city expects to spend $360,000 of its community development block grant on streets in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, Grado said. Another funding stream is $65,760 of liquid fuels money given to the municipality, he added.
Grado said the city has faced cuts in block grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that fund community development.
The city's annual allocation to the department has dropped, Grado said. "This year our department budget was reduced by 10 percent from the year before," he said.
Material prices, including asphalt, ares proportional to the rise in petroleum, according to Grado. Contractor costs increase because of the price of asphalt rising with the increase of oil prices, he said.
If approved, the work, which will be put out to bid, could begin as early as the end of August, following the Little League World Series, and continuing until late October.
What to anticipate
Residents may anticipate the streets to either be milled and paved, Grado said. In some cases, the curbing and storm-water inlet and tree planting will occur.
"In most cases, one might experience a street closure temporarily during the work day," Grado said. Some of the streets need to be milled and repaved, while others require more work, he said.
Impact fee money from the city and Lycoming County is being used to repair Reach Road. The industrial park corridor in the West End has been targeted for completion. The corridor has been repaired in phases, with the first phase completed from Arch Street to Catawissa Avenue and the traffic signal.
A second phase of construction, from Catawissa Avenue to North Reach Road, is in a stage where engineers are completing their final design, Grado said.
The county has contributed $117,000 of county natural gas impact fees for costs of engineering design work for the completion of Reach Road, he said.
Once that design is done, the city plans to apply for additional natural gas impact fee that the county has been given to complete the road from North Reach Road to its end and North Reach Road and Reading Avenue, Grado said.
City streets on the list to be started late summer and early fall include:
Sherman Street, from East Third Street to Washington Boulevard
Penn Street, from East Third Street to Washington Boulevard and from Church to East Third streets.
Federal Avenue, from Arch Street to Funston Avenue
Trenton Avenue, from Arch Street to Funston Avenue
Grafius Street, from Hepburn to Market streets
Court Street, from West Sixth to West Seventh streets
Newberry Street, from Arch Street to Moore Avenue
Fourth Avenue, from Louisa to High streets
Court Street, from West Third to North streets
Fairview Avenue, from Market to Packer streets
Brandon Avenue, from Walnut to Locust streets
Hepburn Street, from Eldred to Huffman streets.
Sherman Street, from Sheridan Street to Shaw Place
Lyons Avenue, from Franklin to Penn streets
Hughes Street, from Franklin to Elizabeth streets
Basin Street, from East Third to East Fourth streets
Elmira Street, from Brandon to Glenwood avenues and from Glenwood to Hawthorne avenues
Mulberry Street, from Via Bella to East Third Street and from East Third to East Fourth streets
Brick work done on Rural Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and Court and Dubois streets.
Another project that has been slated for construction in May or June, because it divides Pennsylvania College of Technology, is West Third Street, from Grier to Park streets. The work involves digging out the wooden trolley ties beneath the surface that have given motorists a washboard effect when driving over it.