The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 11, 2014

Commissioners spend gas tax as they’re told

Beader would prefer relief for general expenses

By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer

MERCER COUNTY — As Mercer County starts to see some return from the state from a local tax on natural gas, Commissioner Brian Beader would like to see that money used for items other than bridge repair and maintenance.

Long critical of the way state government funds county operations, Beader said, “I feel like a broken record harping about this, but we passed the tax, we send it to the state, they send some of it back and then dictate how we spend it.”

Commissioners on Thursday agreed unanimously to spend the $26,366 it received on bridge work, but discussed spending future payments, which they hope will be larger, on soil conservancy or 911 upgrades.

“There are other avenues for bridge repair. I think we need to use this money to offset the general fund. We need to maximize this money so we don’t spend as much from our general fund,” Beader said.

And while the economic effects of the oil and gas boom are beginning, Mercer Chamber of Commerce officials let commissioners know they want to be included in anything that could boost the town’s revitalization efforts.

Chamber president Shane Nugent asked commissioners about talk he’s heard about redesigning an intersection near Erie Street and U.S. Route 19, as well as rerouting traffic around the courthouse. “There’s a lot of community interest in this revitalization idea and I’d like to promote our businesses and also keep them informed,” Nugent said.

“We have to stay plugged in and help if we can,” he added.

Commissioner Chairman John Lechner said the changes are part of a corridor study done several years ago and were PennDOT recommendations. “And I’m not really sure about this, but I think there is some talk of reversing the flow of traffic around the courthouse square.”

PennDOT already announced it was beginning a $1.349 million intersection improvement project along the Route 19 corridor in Mercer. That project is expected to be complete by November.

In other business commissioners:

• Applied for $158,000 from the Transportation Alternatives Program to be channeled to the Shenango Conservancy for repairs to the Kidds Mill Bridge in Pymatuning Township.

• Applied for a $300,000 accessible housing grant for the Mercer County Regional Planning Commission.

• Hired Roth Mechanical Inc., Hermitage to install a new heating and cooling system for $112,475 in county offices at 107 N. Diamond St., Mercer.