Townships seek their slice of shale pie from Fayette
By Mary Pickels
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 11:48 p.m.
Representatives from Fayette County's 24 townships crowded into the commissioners' meeting room on Wednesday, making a pitch for a portion of the county's anticipated $1.4 million from Marcellus shale gas well drilling.
Commissioners imposed those fees under the state's Marcellus Shale Act 13 in April.
Menallen Supervisor Joe Petrucci spoke on behalf of the county's township supervisors association.
“What we need to see happen, I think, here is a permanent county ordinance that (redistributes) Act 13 impact fees at the rate of 60 percent, equally divided among all 24 townships,” Petrucci said.
That figure would result in about $29,000 per township, supervisors estimated.
Petrucci said the money will be needed to repair anticipated damage to township roads used by drilling companies' equipment. Petrucci said $29,000 may not seem like much, but Menallen was able to lay 4,600 feet of water line this year for $30,000.
The drilling could go on for decades, Petrucci said, while townships struggle to maintain roads that heavy-weight trucks “pulverize.”
He said Act 13 funding is “more of a pleasant windfall” for the county, “when compared to the townships' needs for the funds.”
“Our biggest problem is keeping people safe. These wells are destroying our roads and making them unsafe,” Petrucci said.
“In your opinion, the amount of impact fees allocated to the county and municipalities falls way short of what is needed to maintain problems your road system will incur over the next 30 to 40 years?” Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky asked.
“Yes,” Petrucci said.
Commissioner Al Ambrosini noted the county needs to repair numerous bridges. “If we do not repair bridges, that hurts people who live in your townships,” he said. “Every dollar we are going to spend is going to have to be prioritized,” he said.
The board Wednesday ratified creation of a separate bank account for Marcellus Shale proceeds. It also approved a tentative 2013 general fund budget, which leaves property taxes at 4.51448 mills. Revenue was listed at $27.8 million and expenditures at $25.6 million.
Commissioners met with county department heads regarding their “wish lists,” an annual process.
Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink voted against the budget. She said the three commissioners had not held public meetings to discuss the preliminary budget.
The board expects to meet next week to review the budget for possible revisions.
The spending plan must be available for public inspection for 20 days before adoption, required by Dec. 31.
“Until you look at the entire (proposed) budget, you don't know how much meat you have got to cut out,” Ambrosini said.
The board, however, agreed to solicit requests for proposals to implement an adult day reporting center program for criminal defendants sentenced by county judges. Defendants would report to the center, rather than serve time in the county prison, for minor crimes.
Zimmerlink questioned the “manner and timing” of how some issues are brought to commissioners by staff and solicitors.
She said she was unaware of a letter authorizing the county's participation in an auction until just prior to the scheduled property sale.
The building ultimately went to another bidder, commissioners said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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