By MIKE REUTHER
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - For many of the more remote and rural Lycoming County communities, the money they stand to receive in natural gas impact fees may feel like a child's Christmas stocking bursting with goodies.
After all, in some cases the allocations equal or exceed their yearly budgets.
Take Penn Township outside Hughesville, where much of the area's natural gas extraction has taken place in recent years.
The windfall there is $500,000
Township Supervisor Chairman Keith Shaner said plans call for using that money for equipment and paving needs.
"We have a road grader they don't even make any more," he said. "We have to get pieces modified for it all the time. We have stuff we haven't replaced because we haven't had money for it."
But that's not all.
Shaner said they hope to use some of the impact fee funding to renovate the municipal building along Beaver Lake Road.
Used for township meetings and as a voting place, the building has no plumbing.
Penn Township's yearly budget is just $280,000, and the money is certainly welcome, he noted.
"You can always use more (money)," he said. "The main thing we look at as supervisors is are (these) things that will help all the citizens?"
Statewide, more than $204 million in impact fee money was collected from a $50,000 fee on every horizontal Marcellus Shale well.
Municipalities in Lycoming, Bradford, Tioga, Clearfield, Susquehanna, Tioga, Greene, Washington and Lawrence counties will take in the maximum amount of $500,000.
Impact fee legislation, known as Act 13, was voted into law by the state General Assembly earlier this year.
Many Clinton Township residents have been without use of the bridge on East Blind Road, which was damaged in September 2011 from heavy rains resulting from Tropical Storm Lee.
The township likely will use its share of funding to repair the bridge, according to Supervisor Ed Shrimp.
The township fire company also is hoping to get a share of the money, he said.
"Yeah, it will be a good thing," he said of the funding.
McHenry Township Supervisor Paul Hoffmaster said officials there are planning to put their impact fee money into a reserve account, at least for now.
"That decision has already been made," he said.
The fire company was hoping to share in some of the $324,970 allocation, he added.
Cummings Township represents a hub of well-drilling activity, and its $500,000 allocation will help with road repairs sustained by increased truck traffic from gas drilling activity, according to Supervisor Chairman Walt Braddock.
Gas companies, he noted, have been good about paying for repairs to some roads, but others still require attention.
Impact fee money could go toward equipment needs, too.
"We have sort of committed to doing work with the fire company," he said. "They requested a new brush truck. The old one is in bad shape. We are going to be buying some road equipment. There are some things we have kicked around."
Money also could be used to upgrade the Waterville Fire Co.'s fire hall, which doubles as a local community center.
In McIntyre Township, the Ralston Fire Co. may see a share of the township's $118,742 allocation, which is about twice the community's budget.
The money will help alleviate taxes for township residents and target infrastructure improvements.
"We have some bridges that are in dire need of attention up along Pleasant Street," Supervisor Dan Clark said. "There's a lot of people up and down that road during trout season and hunting season."
With its impact fee allocation, the township no longer will assess a street light tax, which amounts to about $17 per resident.
Also being eliminated is the $10 per capita tax.
Mifflin Township Supervisor Donald Murray said no decisions had been made about what to do with the municipality's $131,743 allocation.
"I don't know. We haven't decided yet. We really haven't discussed it," he said. "We got places we can use it."
With the infusion of impact fee money, it's a certainty that the township won't raise taxes next year, Murray said.