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Impact fees help budgets in Latrobe area neighborhoods

| Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

As area municipal officials plan next year's budgets, they will have the opportunity to factor in more than $600,000 from the $204 million collected in impact fees from Marcellus shale natural gas drilling.

The Public Utilities Commission released updated figures for the fees, tentatively scheduled to be distributed at the beginning of December.

The money is collected from drilling fees levied during the first 15 years of a well's activity. The amount due for each well ranges between $5,000 and $60,000 and depends on when drilling began and the average price of natural gas.

About 22 percent of the $204 million collected is going to municipalities with wells, with another 16 percent allocated for municipalities statewide. The remainder will be divided among state programs and counties with wells.

Derry Township, which has 69 Marcellus shale gas wells, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, will receive the most because of the high number of wells within the township, said Supervisor Vince DeCario.

Repairing roads and bridges are a priority in most of the municipalities, including Derry Township.

“Then we'll go from there,” he said, adding that some township bridges could also use improvements.

Supervisors are planning to replace the Greenville School bridge, he said.

Each year the township regularly spends between $300,000 and $400,000 on roads, DeCario said.

Unity Supervisor Michael O'Barto said the township will also put the money into paving.

“The liquid fuels money that our municipality gets is just not enough to do the work that we need to do,” he said.

Roads top the list in Latrobe, where City Manager Alex Graziani said the $20,814 allocated there will be put to good use.

“We have plenty of needs related to infrastructure,” he said.

Wells are not being drilled within Latrobe's borders, but trucks use city roads to travel to and from Unity and Derry townships, Graziani said.

“Certainly our community is impacted,” he said.

In Derry Borough, council President John McCreary said officials originally planned to use a projected $21,000 for infrastructure. The latest figures, however, have adjusted Derry's total to a little more than $7,000.

“Now we have to revise all that,” he said. “Needless to say, it's very disappointing.”

McCreary said officials may save the funds in the capital improvement fund for future projects, although council members have not have the opportunity to discuss the issue.

In Ligonier Borough, officials plan to do just that and bank the $4,453 slated to come in, according to secretary/treasurer Paul Fry.

“We'll save it for unexpected expenses in (the allowable) categories,” Fry said. “You never know when a catch water basin will break or a storm water drain needs repaired. It will offset some of the shortfalls of the budget for some of those unforeseen expenditures.”

Ligonier Township Supervisor Keith Whipkey said he does not view the $56,767 the township will receive as “extra money.”

“We're looking at a tax increase for next year,” Whipkey said. “So we're going to have to apply this money to things that we would normally pay out of the general fund.”

In New Alexandria, Councilman A. Wayne Duffield said no discussions have come up yet about the $1,612 the borough is set to receive.

“We're going to wait until we have the money in hand,” he said. With sewage construction going on in New Alexandria, Duffield said it could be put to good use for storm drain repair.

Youngstown council President Bill Piper said the borough is grateful to be receiving its allotment of $810, up from the original estimate.

“We've got a lot of places that we could put it,” he said. “We'll take all we can get.”

Council hasn't discussed any more specific plans, he said, but it could be put toward playground maintenance.

Staff writer Jewels Phraner contributed to this report. Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.