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24 townships in Fayette may benefit from shale fee

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Two Fayette commissioners approved a plan Tuesday that allocates a portion of the county's 2013 Marcellus shale impact fee money to its 24 townships.

Smaller amounts will go to other entities: volunteer fire departments and the county airport will receive 4 percent each; Fayette County Redevelopment authority will receive 3 percent; Fayette Chamber of Commerce, 2 percent; and Connellsville Chamber of Commerce and Fayette County Community Action, 1 percent each.

Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky introduced the plan, which passed with support from Commissioner Al Ambrosini. Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink did not attend the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the townships, Menallen Supervisor Joe Petrucci estimated that based on the county's $1.4 million Act 13 allocation, each township will receive between $5,500 and $6,000. The amount is less than the $10,000 per township that supervisors had requested.

Petrucci said townships need the money to repair roads damaged by increased truck traffic from the natural gas drilling.

He questioned the decision to give a share of the money to agencies that do not appear to be directly impacted by the industry.

“It's called an impact fee for a reason,” Petrucci said. “It's to make those communities whole that are adversely impacted by Marcellus shale drilling.”

Muriel Nuttal, executive director of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, said she works daily with area businesses that are directly impacted by drilling. Her agency, she said, helps connect businesses to the industry.

“But there's nothing more important than keeping roads safe for travel, and if you don't have roads, you don't have business,” Petrucci said.

Zapotosky and Ambrosini said the money that is available for distribution is limited because the state has an impact fee, as opposed to a production fee.

Noting cutbacks in state and federal funding, Zapotosky said the county is struggling to meet its own fiscal obligations. Among them, he said, are state cutbacks that could result in the state not reimbursing the county for $1.16 million for its Children and Youth Services program.

In a related matter, the two commissioners voted to place $379,705 of 2012 Act 13 money into a capital outlay fund. The money is to be used for various projects, including $120,000 to repair the courthouse roof, $92,000 for computers, software and office-surveillance equipment for adult probation and $29,690 for a vehicle for the sheriff's department.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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