County encourages natural gas; Beech Creek could get pipeline

LOCK HAVEN — Natural gas is being extracted in our region, so why not keep some of it here for local customers to use?

That is the general idea behind the SEDA-Council of Governments Natural Gas Cooperative Inc.

At their Thursday meeting, the Clinton County commissioners approved continuing to participate in this relatively new cooperative. The approved agreement has the county on board for an initial term of 20 years.

Both Centre and Mifflin counties are part of the cooperative as well.

The cooperative is interested in seeing pipelines laid and expanded to serve as many areas as possible, said Tim Holladay, county planning director. Beech Creek might be first up in this county, he said.

Also on Thursday, Mike Flanagan, president and CEO of the Clinton County Economic Partnership, gave the commissioners a quick overview of construction plans for the proposed Renovo Energy Center.

Construction of the $800 million power plant might start in October 2017, and up to 800 people might be employed on the project at its peak, he said. This is double the number originally mentioned, Commissioner Jeff Snyder said. The transient workers will be booking hotel rooms and eating in local restaurants, Flanagan said, giving a boost to the economy.

Once the plant is up and running, it could add 30 permanent jobs to the area.

The project requires about 60 permits to get going, Flanagan said, in part because it involves 6.5 miles of gas pipeline through state forest land to the Dominion gas facility.

Company representatives have said they are impressed with the cooperation and community acceptance the proposed plant is getting, Flanagan reported. They themselves have been very transparent in their planning and held community meetings, Snyder noted.

They also are not seeking local tax breaks, Commissioner Paul Conklin said.

In another matter, the commissioners agreed the county will act as the pass-through for a grant of $1,072,679 from the Department of Health and Human Services for STEP community action agency’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program, from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2017.

The funding will support the 18,000 medical trips STEP provides in Clinton and Lycoming counties and even to health facilities out of the area, said Jim Plankenhorn, the agency’s president and CEO.

“A good transportation system is important to any community,” said Commissioner Chair Pete Smeltz.

Woodward Township’s request for $2,816 in liquid fuels funding was approved. The township plans to put the money toward its $30,000 budget for salt and anti-skid roadway material for winter.

The commissioners want to have the courthouse clock tower refurbished and to replace the lighting with something more energy-efficient. Only one bid on the project was received, of $55,280. It came from WB 4 Construction of Lock Haven and will now be referred to the county solicitor and maintenance staff for review.

The project will include applying roof sealant, replacing any wood that needs it, replacing the current lights with LED, and painting the clock faces.

The work was a long time coming and is overdue, Conklin said. The tower is an icon in the community and should be kept looking nice to show the county has a positive attitude, he said.

The last time work was done on it was 14 years ago, Snyder said. The commissioners were considering plastic roof shingles to last 50 years, he said, but the city’s Historic District Advisory Committee recommended the county stay with the original material, which is sheet metal. Snyder said he understands the tower is historically significant and he does not dispute the advisory committee’s recommendation.

In other matters, the commissioners voted for a health insurance change and will go with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Health Alliance, an intergovernmental cooperative. The insurance will be provided by Delaware Valley Health Trust.

Appointments approved Thursday were:

r Caitlyn Kovach to the Big Brothers Big Sisters/Children and Youth Board, effectively immediately and lasting indefinitely.

r James Harbach and Charles Dotterer as farmer directors on the Clinton County Conservation Board for four-year terms to expire at the end of 2020. Both are being re-appointed, and Dotterer was recognized this year for 30 years of service on the board.

r Eugene Cox and Marc Bridgens to the Clinton County Recreation Authority for five-year terms to expire at the end of 2021. Both are being re-appointed.

r William Kellander and Ernest Peterson to the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority with terms expiring Jan. 1, 2021. Both are being re-appointed.

r John Gummo and Brent Jones to the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority for five-year terms to expire at the end of 2021. Both are being re-appointed.

More appointments will be made in December.

Conklin said there are vacancies on the Clinton County Housing Authority and the Western Clinton County Recreation Authority. Those interested are encouraged to contact the commissioners office, he said.

John Rickert’s resignation as part-time dispatcher at the Clinton County Communications Center was accepted, effective Nov. 14.

Commissioner Jeff Snyder commended State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, and the state Legislature for passing Acts 122 to 126 that deal with the opioid crisis and make doctors more accountable when they prescribe opioids.

“I think this is a great thing,” he said.

The commissioners recently sat down with U.S. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard, and talked about the upcoming year, and they would like to do the same with Hanna.

County bills of $79,694 and payroll of $263,439 were approved for the period ending Nov. 18.