Lawrence supervisors respond to referendum questions|
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Lawrence Township Board of Supervisors answered questions from the public on police funding, gas well revenue and storm water infiltration into its sanitary system.
During the public comment period, Tim Winters of Clearfield asked the supervisors why they are having a referendum asking voters to approve a 6-mill real estate tax increase to fund the police department when the township is due to receive approximately $1 million in gas well revenue from Act 13 fees.
"Why are the taxpayers being asked by referendum to raise their own taxes to fund the police department when the money is readily available and public safety is one of its approved uses?" Winters asked.
Winters pointed out that the police department at one time had 16 police officers but is now down to seven full-time members, and said the department needs 10 full-time officers to have adequate staffing.
Act 13 allows municipalities to use revenues from gas well fees for emergency services like police departments.
Chairman Glenn Johnston responded by saying the township has not yet received any money from gas well fees. The state is scheduled to release the funds in December. And although this year's revenue is expected to be about $1 million, there is no assurance that these funds would come in regularly every year to allow them to fund things like additional payroll, Johnston said.
He said the state calculates gas well fees based in part on the price of natural gas and the revenue the township would get this year is from fees collected in 2011. However, he said, the price of natural gas is now about a third of what it was then so it is unclear whether the township would continue receive this level of revenue every year.
Johnston said if it turns out revenue from gas well fees does come in consistently, then they can revisit the question and roll back the real estate tax increase.
Supervisor Ed Brown said the township also has other infrastructure needs it has to address such as road improvements, which experienced additional wear due to the increased truck traffic in the area.
Also during the public comment period, Arnold "Boo" Swales of Clearfield questioned the township's response to the storm water infiltration problem with its sewer system and that it is now feeling pressure from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"The township dragged its feet for three years," Swales said. "It's going to cost people a lot of money."
However, Supervisor William Lawhead denied this and said the township has been working diligently on the issue since 2001 and recently spent much of the day in the rain checking for illegal storm water connections to the sewer system.
Johnston noted that over the past several years the township has undertaken several projects to replace aging sewer lines and last month implemented stiff penalties on those who fail to remove downspouts, French drains, sump pumps, etc. that are connected with the sanitary sewer system.
Johnston said the township was praised by DEP officials at a recent meeting for its work in addressing the problem.
Following the meeting, when asked by The Progress, Johnston said he agreed with the Clearfield Municipal Authority engineer Mark Glenn's statement earlier in the day at the CMA board meeting that DEP would likely place them on an accelerated schedule to correct the storm water infiltration problem.
Johnston said much of the problem is due to illegal connections like downspouts and French drains and said they have to educate the public about illegal storm water connections to the sewer system. But he said the township does have more work to do as well; he estimated the township probably has about $2 million in construction work left to do on the sanitary sewer system.
The supervisors also authorized the purchase of smoke testing equipment at a cost of $385. The equipment is used to find illegal storm water connections to the sanitary sewer system.
In other business, the supervisors voted to:
• set Trick-or-Treat night for Oct. 31 from 6-8 p.m., which is the same night as Clearfield Borough.
• approve the land development plan for Graystone Court Villas conditional on the plan meeting all of the engineer's comments. Jeff Long, owner of the Graystone Court senior apartment complex along Leonard Street, is planning to demolish the Multi-Service Center and construct a similar facility on the site.
• appoint William Thompson to the planning commission.
• set the hearing date for two conditional use hearings for applications for timbering. Jeff Krause is seeking to timber 35 acres off of Carbon Mine Road and Forecon Inc. is seeking to timber 80 acres of a 323 acre tract off of Baney Settlement Road. The hearings were set for Oct. 16 at 6:45 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. before the township's regular meeting at 7 p.m.
• approve sending a police officer to perform child fingerprinting at the Christian Missionary Alliance Church for three hours on Saturday.
• approve the Larko, subdivision off of Larson Road.