County creates natural gas task force

BROOKVILLE — Hoping to put Jefferson County on the map, officials recently created a natural gas task force, with county Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik serving as chairman.

According to Director of Economic Development John Weible, the group is in the early stages of formation, but seeks to debut at the Pennsylvania Gas Expo 2011, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21 at the IUP Kovalchick Complex in Indiana.

The purpose of the expo is to seek and bring businesses and the public together to educate and network about Marcellus Shale.

“We’re looking forward to going down there,” Weible said. “We want to get the county’s name out there and to make some contacts.”

The Jefferson County Planning Commission discussed this event at its meeting Wednesday night.

Weible said he’s looking for speakers for the upcoming event, and invited commission members to attend the expo.

According to Weible, the task force has one main goal: To provide information to gas companies about Jefferson County.

Because the group is newly-formed, Weible is unaware of how it will be implemented in the county.

In other business, the future $4 million Jefferson County Business Park is also in its early stages of development.

Two grant applications were unsuccessful, although the county was very close with the second.

Weible praised Kristin Hullihen for the “fantastic job” she did with putting the second application together, saying that she “really stepped up to the plate.” But a third application has been resubmitted.

The grant, which is through the Economic Development Association (EDA), will contribute more than $1.5 million to the project.

“It’s moving forward,” Weible said. “Not as fast as the developer would like to move forward, but as fast as you can move it forward, we’re moving it forward.”

The Jefferson County Business Park will be located off Exit 81.
According to Weible, the largest part of the project includes bringing water and sewer beneath Interstate 80. The rest includes developing the road system, electricity and clearing and leveling the site.

But until all the money is lined up, there is no set completion date, Weible said.

In addition to the possible EDA grant, the county may also receive $1.5 million from the redevelopment assistance capital, which is a direct line out of the governor’s budget.

Gov. Tom Corbett removed this program from the budget, although it was allocated under Gov. Ed Rendell, so the money is still available, Weible said.

“Everything is in line to do it, but they need to make sure it’s being used for what it was originally intended for, and that’s getting business in rural Pennsylvania,” Weible said.

The deadline for the funding technically ended when Rendell left office, but as long as there is a valid reason for the extension, the deadline can be extended, he said.

According to Weible, because the county is waiting to hear back from the EDA grant, it’s a valid extension.

Furthermore, the county is also looking to match with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), but funding cannot come from the ARC without approval from the EDA.

Half of the funds for the $4 million project will come from grants, a third will come from the state, and the remaining funds will come from a private developer, Weible said.

“This is a theoretical project that has backing with the state,” he said.
In other business:

• Karen Allgeier has resigned from the JCPC. A recommendation came before the planning commission to appoint Judi Anthony, which was accepted unanimously. Weible is going to prepare the information for the next county commission meeting to take place July 13.

• The Redbank Valley Trails Association applied and received a $25,000 grant from North Central called the Greenways Implementation Grant, which will be used to develop the trail from Summerville to Brookville. It will be matched with $25,000 cash from a challenge grant from Allegheny Valley Land and Trust.

According to Weible, volunteers will be donating machinery and labor to do the work along the trail.

• The next regularly scheduled JCPC meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.