Lawrence commissioners curtail aid for road work
By Mary Grzebieniak
NEW CASTLE, Pa.
After this year, local municipalities in Lawrence County will not be able to look to the county for help they’ve received for years with local road projects.
Lawrence County Commissioners announced Tuesday this year is the last, at least for awhile, that they will allocate some of the county’s liquid fuels money to local municipalities. Liquid fuels money is derived from the state’s tax on gasoline and is allotted to counties and municipalities based on their miles of roads.
While local municipalities receive their own annual liquid fuels allotment from the state each year based on their number of miles of roads, the county for years has been voluntarily giving additional thousands of dollars to them to help with road and drainage projects.
Each year the county receives about $320,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as an annual allocation from liquid fuels money. For the past 12 years and reportedly even back to the 1960s, the county has been giving about $100,000 of that to local governments.
Commissioners made the announcement Tuesday as they awarded this year’s $246,000 to 14 municipalities in grants ranging from $7,000 to $20,000. Commissioner Steve Craig said starting in 2012, the county will keep all its annual liquid fuels money to build up its reserves so they will be able to meet their first responsibility — maintenance of county bridges and providing local match funds for state repair or replacement of county bridges.
Right now, the county has about $1.3 million in the fund but commissioners don’t think that’s enough of a cushion. For the last three years, the PennDOT allocation has not covered the county’s expenses for maintaining its bridges and providing local matching funds for bridge repairs done by the state, Craig said
He added that the prospect for an increase in liquid fuels funds is bleak because gas usage is generally going down as vehicles become more energy-efficient and as gasoline sales decline because of high prices. He said the state hasn’t increased the liquid fuels allotment for 20 years and no new gas taxes have been imposed in Pennsylvania since 1997. At that time, according to the Associated Press, a 3.5 cent per gallon increase brought the state tax on gas to 26 cents per gallon.
Local governments will be notified by letter of the decision.
Also Tuesday, Craig announced commissioners signed a contract last week to receive a $2.4 million grant under the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The Dairy Farmers of America in Wilmington Township will use the grant to replace cheese processing facilities for the Farmers’ Cheese Co-op, located at Pa. Routes 208 and 18. Craig said hundreds of farms sell milk to the co-op and that the grant will preserve 275 jobs. The county submitted the grant application on behalf of the co-op.