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Greencastle hopes to get state money

January 05, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Borough officials said Monday they hope to have some of their infrastructure projects in the running for a piece of the $800 million earmark that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will begin to dole out in February.

Voters approved in November a $400 million referendum for competitive infrastructure grants and loans for municipal infrastructure projects. This, coupled with additional state funding, has as much as $800 million up for grabs in 2009 through the Department of Community and Economic Development and Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority or PENNVEST.

Greencastle Borough Councilman Harry Foley suggested the borough consider applying for some of the money that is available in 50 percent matching grants for projects totaling at least $500,000 and no more than $20 million.

Foley, who chairs the public facilities committee, said the borough has historically struggled to secure grants because it is a strong socio-economic community.

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"We have to face the reality that Greencastle is fairly affluent," he said. "However, I think we should still consider applying for these funds."

The Capital Hill Authority Report listed the grant as being open to projects that would acquire, construct, expand, improve or rehabilitate water, sewer, storm water, flood control and/or high hazard dam facilities.

Sam Wiser, attorney with borough solicitor Salzmann Hughes, P.C. of Chambersburg, Pa., said the deadline is quickly approaching for submitting an application and advised the council not take too much time deciding its intentions.

"We are assisting other boroughs with applications for these kinds of projects," Wiser said. "It is our understanding that (the state) wants municipalities to be able to move on the project by Spring or Summer."

PENNVEST will use some of the $400 million referendum funds to issue loans to municipalities which can use those loans for matching the grant, he said, adding that the deadline for a loan is Feb. 16.

Wiser offered his firm's services to the council for as much as $30,000 for the total applications preparation and submission, but the council was not eager to buy.

Council President Charlie Eckstine and Councilwoman Michele Emmett questioned investing $30,000 in an application that is not guaranteed to deliver funding.

"That is quite a gamble," Eckstine said.

While Foley initially suggested the board apply for money to extend its stormwater management system to the east end of the borough, he said there is no project estimate to go on.

Only one borough project, the sewer interceptor replacement project, might qualify for the $500,000 minimum and be quickly submitted, said Borough Manager Ken Womack,

However, he said the state has indicated that it will give preference to projects that are regional, affect the Chesapeake Bay or boost economic development. The interceptor project does not.

The council tasked Womack with reviewing all borough projects and proceeding with applying for money, if he sees fit.

Wiser said it is not clear whether the state will disperse all $800 million in the first round of applications or if it will post other submission deadlines.

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