Local municipal officials got a chance to see how Washington County and municipalities are funding projects in their parks in part using gas revenue from royalties and the Act 13 impact fee during a Sept. 26 seminar and bus tour hosted by the Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy & Management (CEPM).
Speakers included Lisa Cessna, executive director of the Washington County Planning Commission; Jodi Noble, manager of Chartiers Township; and Adam Mattis, regional adviser for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Corey Young, executive director of the CEPM, also gave a brief overview of the Act 13 impact fee, which was passed by the state legislature in 2012.
Cessna and Noble discussed how the county and Chartiers Township have used gas revenue and royalties from gas leases to help fund park projects. Cessna explained that the county gets royalty money from gas leases in the parks and puts half of that revenue into separate funds for each park. The money has been used for everything from playgrounds, equipment and maintenance to larger projects like kayak launches and the restoration of a relocated log cabin, and the historic Henry House, an 18th-century cabin in Mingo Creek County Park. In addition, the county has used royalty money to leverage grants from several state agencies.
Both she and Noble stressed the importance of communities developing a master plan outlining specific park improvements after receiving public input as a first step.
Noble said Chartiers receives both Act 13 and lease money that is used for projects in its four parks and at its community center. Since its inception, the township has received $4.6 million in impact fees, and more than $400,000 in lease royalties and bonuses.
“We made a conscious decision to use Act 13 funds for capital projects focusing on infrastructure to leverage development,” she explained.
She explained that parks and recreation is the “PR” arm of a community because it is something that residents want and use. Being able to use “non-taxpayer money” makes it easier to justify those expenditures, she added. Forming a partnership with gas companies operating in the community can also allow the municipality to receive in-kind services.
She also noted that in addition to using money as matching funds for potential grants, communities can also use Act 13 money to pay debt service on a bond issue, making it easier to do a large project.
Mattis gave an overview of the DCNR grant application process and explained that a comprehensive parks plant is essential to apply for funding. He noted that his agency also offers grants to develop those plans.
After the presentations, participants were given a tour of Mingo Creek County Park to view some of the many projects that have been completed there.