2 Centre County commissioners show support

Higgins and Pipe for ‘Restore Pennsylvania’

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County commissioners very rarely disagree. However, Tuesday’s regular meeting was one of those instances.

The commissioners pushed to next week’s consent agenda Resolution No. 3 of 2019, which supports Restore Pennsylvania, a $4.5 billion infrastructure improvement plan.

Restore Pennsylvania is a proposal by Gov. Tom Wolf, who has gone around the state promoting his plan to borrow $4.5 billion for infrastructure and finance it with revenues from a tax on natural gas extraction. It’s the governor’s latest proposal to tax natural gas drillers.

Democrats Higgins and Pipe voted yes to supporting Wolf’s plan, while Republican Steve Dershem was the lone no vote.

“I don’t support this,” Dershem said. “This is really not a county issue.”

The plan is too vague, he said.

“We really don’t have any guaranteed outcomes here. There’s really no specific plan for where this money is going to go … what I do know is that everyone who heats with natural gas — or cools with natural gas — is going to pay more in fees and service costs,” Dershem said. “I would warn this board to be very careful about being political advocates on legislation as vague as this.”

And while the Restore Pennsylvania proposal has now been introduced, it may not see the light of day as leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature are in no hurry to take it up.

However, Pipe and Higgins were steadfast in their support for the plan. Higgins said that the plan could impact both Centre and Clinton counties.

“I did some research on the project and there were several areas that I saw some interesting paragraphs,” Higgins said. “The very last paragraph talks about the regional trail networks for all-terrain vehicles, mountain bikes and groups like that and they specifically say the ATV connector loop in Clinton County — to put those in a safe and cost-efficient manner.”

Pipe said that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have a severance tax on the natural gas industry.

“We do have the impact fee, but it’s a very, very small amount in terms of what other states charge,” Pipe said.

After much discussion, support for Restore Pennsylvania passed 2-1 and will be on next week’s consent agenda.

In other business, the commissioners:

∫ Announced the county has received $180,027.57 from the commonwealth for reimbursement of new voting machines. Centre County is one of the first counties in the state to receive the money, said county administrator Margaret Gray.

Dershem said that he was glad that the county was one of the first in the state to use new voting machines.

“I think it’s going to be good to have a couple of runs under the belt before the Presidential election. I think doing this early was a smart thing,” he said.

∫ Tabled the contract award for the RFP for design/replacement of Holt Memorial Library’s HVAC system. Holt Memorial Library is located in Philipsburg.

∫ Tabled opening proposals for the RFP for crisis assessment services until Tuesday, June 25 for review.

∫ Approved submission of a revised payment request No. 1 to the Department of Community and Economic (DCED) for disbursement of funds from the Development Keystone Communities grant in the amount of $34,000 for installation of a new metering pit vault in the Mountaintop Regional Water Authority system. The total grant is $100,000 for the period of June 20, 2018 through June 30, 2020.

∫ Submission of a letter in support of Appalachian Food Works efforts to secure funding from the United States Department of Agriculture through the local food promotion program.

COMMENTS