Commissioners to consider gap loan

Sylvan Dell project delayed

To avoid increased surveying costs, the proposed park in Armstrong Township must wait until fall for mapping accuracy, delaying grant monies, said Lycoming County officials. The county land development administrator asked commissioners for a loan Tuesday.

The Sylvan Dell conservation site, located along the Susquehanna River, east of the South Williamsport Community Park Complex, is a 222 acre parcel of land that has been identified as having historical and environmental value, according to a press release.

Proper surveying is a requirement to show due diligence to the granting agencies on the side of Armstrong Township and the county.

“The corn down there is 8 to 10 feet high, it makes it a little more difficult to do certain proper surveying,” said Joshua Billings, development administrator.

Additionally, a large amount of vegetation along the Susquehanna River makes it difficult to map.

“(The surveyor) indicated that there would be a considerable amount of cost addition to the quote if we do it right now,” Billings said, after recently visiting the property with the surveyor.

A grant with the state Infrastructure Investment Authority is providing a portion of the total land purchase, $600,000 to be reimbursed in the months after closing on the land sales estimated to occur in November, said Billings.

Water quality improvement stipulations were also included in this grant; $28,000 will be held until certain plants are put into the ground.

Though Billings insists the land purchase still will occur before Dec. 31, the date on which the sales agreements with both property owners end, the delay means the necessary planting can’t be done until the spring.

Ten percent of another grant for $514,000 with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is being withheld until after the closing.

“What county staff has proposed, as part of this project, is to provide a bridge loan to Armstrong Township. When we go to closing, that money will be available to them to close on the property,” said Billings.

The county planning department would then work with Armstrong Township to directly reimburse the county for the $600,000 grant from Pennvest, and 10 percent of the $514,000 grant from DCNR.

Armstrong Township will have 60 days to transfer the money of the grant money will be transferred back to the county, said Billings.

Commissioner Tony Mussare said he wanted to ensure taxpayers in Lycoming County would not be responsible for recouping the funds if the grants failed to reimburse township.

If the township, and therefore the county, are not reimbursed by the grants, then the township is “on the hook” for it, said J. David Smith, solicitor, according to the contract.

“Essentially, it gives the county the option to walk away from this without forfeiting any of its rights,” he said.

The next scheduled meeting is 10 a.m. Thursday in the commissioners’ briefing room in the Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.

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