County Basking In Money From Drilling Impact Fees

Reading Eagle

Energy companies aren’t drilling into Berks County’s limited natural gas deposits.

They have, however, paid $349,068 toward upgrading parks here.

And soon they will pay about $500,000 more to repair county bridges.

The windfall is the result of an impact-fee law passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year.

Even counties that don’t have drilling get a share of the money. The law spelled out how the money paid by companies drilling in the Marcellus shale elsewhere can be used.

The first check must be spent on parks, open space and nature, said Berks County Commissioner Kevin S. Barnhardt, who attends meetings of the parks and recreation board on behalf of the commissioners.

Parks Director Clare W. Adams said some of the money will fund the continuing work on Antietam Lake Park and the rest likely will go toward implementing a capital project plan put together earlier this year.

“We need to address some deferred maintenance, basic things like new roofing, updated plumbing and electrical, parking lot renovations and replacing windows and furnaces,” she said. “We’ve spread the work out over five years.”

Commissioner Mark C. Scott said the shale money enables the county to accomplish its goals for parks more quickly. Even though the uses for the money are limited, it’s definitely a help given the county’s tight budget, Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach said.

The parks board and staff are excited about having extra money, Adams said.

“We got an early $349,067.68 Christmas present,” she said. “We are very grateful for this program.”

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