Commissioners unanimously vote down $5 fee

By SARAH PAEZ

spaez@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — All three Clinton County commissioners voted “no” on adding a $5 fee to motor vehicle registrations in the county to use for road and bridge projects.

The decision came nearly a month after the Aug. 9 meeting where commissioners were originally supposed to take action on the fee.

Commissioner Paul Conklin said he rejected the proposal due to a lack of input from municipalities.

“I was very disappointed that (when) we tried to reach out to the municipalities…we couldn’t get them to even reply,” he said.

Only four municipalities returned answers to commissioners–Mill Hall and Flemington boroughs wrote letters of support, Lamar Township said it did not need the funds, and at yesterday’s meeting Crawford Township Chair Harold “Bill” Jameson said, “most of the taxpayers are against it.”

The biggest complaint from Crawford Township residents, he said, was, “why should we keep paying without the Amish paying?”

The 23 other municipalities did not reach out to commissioners to provide comment.

Confusion from residents over how the county could use the $5 funds also disheartened commissioners. Through the public meeting and discussion process, Commissioner Jeff Snyder said there were many people who spoke out about laws and policies made at the state level.

“I hope the citizens look at some of the things they complain to us about,” he said, and take them to the state level where they have the power to change.

He said commissioners, too, disagree with some of the ways in which the state uses taxpayer money; specifically, how the state allows some funds from the gasoline tax to go toward the state police budget and mass transit operations in cities like Philadelphia.

Commissioner Pete Smeltz extolled the value of communication with the public during the process, citing the Aug. 27 public meeting and other citizen input at work sessions and voting meetings.

The board, he said, “embarked on this because we get a barrage of requests” from municipalities each year for liquid fuels funds to complete road and bridge projects. He said commissioners thought the need for specific road and bridge funds was greater than it apparently was, judging from the public outcry and lack of municipal input.

Hearing from people and not hearing from municipalities “changed my mind…about the need,” Smeltz said.

With no $5 fee, the motor vehicle registration fee in Clinton County remains $37, with motorcycle registrations costing $19.

Currently, 22 out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania have approved a $5 motor vehicle registration fee, including Centre and Lycoming counties. Most counties that adopted the fee have populations over 100,000, but several, including Greene, Pike, Mifflin and Union counties have similar population sizes to Clinton County.

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