Mt. Pleasant residents discuss Act 13 money

July 31, 2014
Emily Petsko/Observer-Reporter Rebecca Skirpan of Hickory, appearing Wednesday at a meeting of Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors, requests that a portion of the township's Act 13 money be used to replace old equipment a Heritage Public Library.

HICKORY – Mt. Pleasant is thrilled to have $1.3 million in “free money” – a result of natural gas development in the township – but officials now have some tough decisions to make.

Impact fees on oil and natural gas development were established under Pennsylvania’s Act 13 of 2012, and funds are annually disbursed throughout the state according to each municipality’s level of development and budget.

During a public meeting Wednesday at the municipal building, the room was filled with ideas for new projects. Most of the residents’ proposals concerned the construction of a sewer system and police department improvements.

Paul Batista, chairman of the township municipal authority, requested funds to help pay for upfront costs to construct a sewerage plant, pump stations and infrastructure by 2017. The township currently has on-lot systems, and several residents complained of sewage leaks.

Batista said the project is estimated to cost $19.2 million, and upfront engineering fees would cost about $2 million. He estimated the authority could likely secure about $11 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, which leaves an $8 million funding gap.

He also requested 75 percent of Act 13 funds each year be allocated for the sewerage project.

Jeff Donati, who lives on Washington Avenue, said his street has issues with sewage leaking and said residents were asked by the Washington County Sewage Council to pay $150 per residence for testing.

“As a community, I think it’s probably one of the biggest expenditures that we’re going to have, other than the (public) water several years ago, that’s going to benefit the health and welfare of the entire community,” Donati said of the proposed sewerage project.

John Bershok, a township resident and state trooper in the Washington barracks, also supported the project and spoke in favor of helping Mt. Pleasant police become a 24/7 department.

Bershok said state police are sometimes stationed as far away as West Finley Township and can’t always reach Mt. Pleasant in time if local police need backup.

He also suggested that a Mt. Pleasant officer be sent to Harrisburg to be trained in the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. He said there has been a huge increase in oil and gas trucks traveling on Mt. Pleasant roads – many in violation of traffic laws – and said only one officer in Washington County has an MCSAP certification.

Any money from citations would be an extra revenue source for the township, he said.

“In case the money dries up, I’d like to see it put in self-sufficient programs,” he said.

Mt. Pleasant police Chief Lou McQuillan agreed with Bershok’s suggestions and also requested funds for “additional manpower” to help the department become full time. He also requested money to construct either a standalone police department or a new addition to the already-existing department. In addition, he said the department needs new radios and other equipment.

Kevin Dry, township fire chief, requested $100,000 a year for five years to replace an engine rescue fire truck that is 20 years old. Dry said the fire department spent about $6,000 last year in maintenance fees for the truck.

Rebecca Skirpan of Hickory requested $4,960 to replace and maintain a copier and fax machine at Heritage Public Library. Skirpan said the machine experienced a great deal of “wear and tear” and is frequently used by gas industry workers.

Jane Worthington requested roughly $25,000 to extend water to the ball fields near district schools.

Supervisors did not vote on the disbursement of Act 13 funds during their regular meeting Wednesday but said they would take action soon.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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