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Marcellus fees will pay salaries

| Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Fayette County commissioners on Tuesday passed resolutions detailing where some of its $1.4 million in Marcellus shale impact-fee revenues will be spent, but they could not decide how to set aside a portion of the money for two dozen townships.

Commissioners voted unanimously to use $28,483 to pay an employee's salary in the records department and to give $60,000 to the Fayette County Conservation District to hire an employee.

They voted 2-0, with Angela Zimmerlink abstaining, to use $844,768 for 911 emergency system upgrades. Zimmerlink said she abstained because the 2013 budget called for using $506,690 of Act 13 money for the upgrades.

In a 2-1 vote, with Zimmerlink opposed, commissioners Al Ambrosini and Vince Zapotosky approved giving $60,000 to the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority. Zimmerlink said the new hire will review the industry's impact on economic development, a task that could be handled by the county's existing economic development agencies.

Zapotosky motioned to deposit $379,705 in Act 13 money into a capital reserve fund, but he withdrew the motion when Zimmerlink questioned whether doing so would restrict its use to the county. She noted that 24 townships have asked that some of the money be designated for their use.

Zimmerlink made a motion to set aside $240,000 of the $379,705 for the townships, with each to be given $10,000. Her motion died for lack of a second.

Zapotosky and Ambrosini said they want specific rules to govern how townships are awarded the money. Amounts might vary, they said, depending on each township's proposed project.

Zimmerlink said she prefers that each township be awarded the same amount so that local officials can decide for themselves how best to use the money.

Menallen Supervisor Joe Petrucci said the townships need the money primarily to maintain roads that have been impacted by an increase in Marcellus traffic.

The money the 24 townships are seeking would be in addition to their share of $2.4 million in impact fees to be divided among all 42 county municipalities, Zapotosky noted.

In an unrelated matter, Controller Sean Lally advised commissioners the state has notified the county Children and Youth Services it might not receive $1.16 million to help pay its 2011-12 expenses. Lally said CYS needs the money because it owes the county $1.3 million.

Zapotosky said officials are lobbying Harrisburg to disburse the money. Ambrosini said if the state does not reimburse the county, it “will be fairly devastating to the county's general fund.”

In an unrelated matter, the board appointed Sam Cordis to the airport authority to fill the unexpired term of Terry Shallenberger, who resigned in January. Zapotosky said Cordis is a former manager of the airport in Dunbar Township.

During public comment, Marcy Ozorowski of Highlands Hospital in Connellsville presented commissioners with a petition asking them to attend a private meeting with hospital management regarding their concerns over a contract with competitor Uniontown Hospital to provide state-funded inpatient mental health services.

The petition contains 500 signatures, according to Ozorowski. Highlands contends the contract between Value Behavioral Health and Uniontown Hospital was improperly awarded because commissioners did not approve it. Highlands previously had been the county's exclusive provider of the services through the HealthChoices program.

An attorney who looked into the allegations for the county found no wrongdoing, but another who investigated for Highlands concluded proper procedures were not followed.

Ozorowski said a drop in inpatient admissions has forced the Connellsville hospital to cut employee hours.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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