County receives gas impact fee

Some of the financial benefits to Indiana County of hosting unconventional (Marcellus shale) natural gas wells will be spent on building stormwater controls, training volunteer firefighters and preserving farmland.

The Indiana County commissioners Wednesday approved allocations of the county’s 2014 share of Act 13 Impact Fee disbursement money, also known as the “unconventional gas well fund.”

The impact fee is paid to the state by drillers of unconventional natural gas wells. Through a complex formula, some of the fee money is retained and used by the state and some is distributed to counties and municipalities.

Byron Stauffer, executive director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, told the commissioners Wednesday the county has 28 eligible unconventional gas wells and under the disbursement formula the county is entitled to $162,019.56 for 2014.

Based on a review of needs in the county to support various projects and initiatives, the planning office recommended, and the commissioners approved, the following disbursements:

• $15,000 for fees for stormwater construction and repair projects
• $15,000 for training local firefighters at the Indiana County Fire Academy
• $15,000 for HAZMAT training
• $25,000 for the Indiana County Farmland Preservation program
• $26,000 for hardware and software for a geographic information system in the planning office
• $10,000 for the Alice Paul House, a domestic violence shelter
• $36,019.56 to be deposited in the county’s capital reserve fund to be used only for purposes that qualify for Act 13 funding
• $20,000 to help pay for a countywide Economic Development Plan

To further advance that countywide Economic and Workforce Development Plan, the commissioners also agreed to apply for a $40,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The plan will be incorporated as an addendum to the Indiana County Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2012.

The last formal economic development plan for Indiana County was conducted in 1991 and the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations has identified the development of a new Economic and Workforce Development Plan for the county as its No. 1 priority in 2016.

In other economic development news, the commissioners approved a $1 million loan from the Greater Indiana Enterprise Zone Loan Fund, and a $250,000 loan from the Indiana County Revolving Loan Fund, both to the Indiana County Development Corporation. The loans will be used to partially fund grading, construction and infrastructure development in two more areas of the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park near the routes 422-286 interchange in White Township.

The EZLF and RLF loans will be leveraged by funds from CNB Bank, company equity and other public funds.

And the commissioners also authorized an application for a $200,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant for partial funding for STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) educational programs and career pathway development in the county.

Author: Randy WellsPublication: Indiana Gazette,23552985/