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Fee, gas lease could keep Fayette County flush

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Preliminary numbers in the Fayette County 2014 budget do not call for a tax increase, the chairman said on Tuesday, but the board is still working on the spending plan.

No cuts have been made — yet — Commissioner Al Ambrosini said, and department requests for staff or funding increases will be reviewed closely.

A tentative budget is expected to be presented at the regular voting meeting on Nov. 19.

“We are still building the budget. We don't anticipate any tax increase,” Ambrosini said, following the board's agenda meeting.

Several pending actions could bring revenue into the general fund or cut expenditures, Ambrosini said.

“We are looking at a significant potential change on the revenue side,” he said.

That change could occur if the board enacts the state Uniform Parcel Identifier act.

Recorder of Deeds David Malosky said his office expects to send a letter of recommendation to the commissioners before year's end.

Some counties already impose the $10 fee for attorneys, real estate agents and, more recently, gas lease industries, to provide identification numbers for individual tracts, lots or parcels.

Those numbers would be assigned by the assessor's office, with fees collected by the recorder of deed's office, said Tracie Vargo, chief deputy recorder.

“It's a $10-per-parcel fee,” she said.

While that fee will have minimal impact on the average property buyer, it could bring in significant sums from the gas-leasing industry, Malosky said.

Ambrosini said the fees could add $400,000 or more to the general fund.

Commissioners agreed to a request from Phillip Khoury, land representative for Chevron, to consider an agreement between Fayette County and Chevron/Appalachian to lease 7.92 county-owned acres in Springhill Township.

The parcel is near a well-drilling site that Chevron is ready to proceed with, Khoury said.

“This would be non-surface disturbance. We want to go underneath. No property will be encroached,” he said.

The property was deeded to the county by CSX for a rails-to-trails project, Khoury said.

Drilling would be 10,000 feet underground, he said.

Khoury requested a five-year contract, with the county to receive a lease bonus payment of $1,000 per acre and a 14 percent royalty rate.

Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink said issues need to be discussed “beyond the county getting money.”

Grant funding could be affected if the county receives monetary benefits from such an agreement, she said.

Zimmerlink advised solicitor John Cupp to review any similar agreements the county has executed.

The board agreed to vote on a lease for the temporary women's annex to be used until the new county prison is operational.

Uniontown businessman Steve Neubauer owns the Iowa Street property, a former kindergarten.

The commissioners are awaiting a lease proposal, Ambrosini said.

Bids for an expected $100,000 renovation could be awarded in January, and the site could be ready for occupancy by March, Ambrosini said.

It would house as many as 50 female inmates to help reduce the number of prisoners housed in rented cells in other counties until the new facility is built, Ambrosini said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mpickels@tribweb.com or 724-836-5401.

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