TOWANDA – The natural gas industry has been “a phenomenal economic shot in the arm for Bradford County,” and it has played a big role in making Bradford County “the envy of the state of Pennsylvania,” said Republican Daryl Miller, who is running for his second four-year term as a Bradford County commissioner.
Miller said he is proud of the fact that the county used revenue from the impact fee to eliminate county debt and reduce property taxes by 6 percent.
“We’re one of the few counties in Pennsylvania that carries no debt,” Miller said. Miller added that, as a member of the board of directors of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, he has talked to county commissioners from all over Pennsylvania about Bradford County.
“We are the envy of the state of Pennsylvania for the position we are in … (It’s) because of the economy we have going here and the fiscal position of the county,” he said.
Miller said that one day on his 15-mile commute home from his office in Towanda, he counted 15 or 16 businesses along the road that either started or expanded because of the gas industry.
“If you multiply that around the county, it (the natural gas industry) was a phenomenal economic shot in the arm for us,” Miller said.
There have been impacts from the gas industry on Bradford County, such as increased traffic, he says.
“There is traffic, there are a lot of things that are what I call impediments to people’s normal way of everyday life in Bradford County (resulting from the gas industry), but by and large it’s a very temporary impediment, (compared) to the long-term benefits that you get out of the gas exploration that is taking place here.”
Miller said he is concerned about the possibility that a severance tax on gas drilling will be enacted in Pennsylvania, which would automatically result in the repeal of the impact fee.
While state officials have been discussing earmarking some of the revenue from the severance tax to county governments and municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region, Miller said he is concerned that the amount they would receive would be too low.
He said he is concerned that, if a severance tax is enacted, local municipalities, whose roads have been affected by the natural gas industry, won’t have enough funds to maintain them.
Bradford County has used some of its revenue from the impact fee to upgrade equipment that is related to the county’s 911 system, he said. “We’ve already invested about 2 1/2 million dollars in the microwave system and the radio communications that all goes with (911 communications) … and that’s from the impact fee in large part,” Miller said.
Miller said one of his priorities for using revenue from the impact fee, should it continue to be available in the future, is to construct the proposed training center for first responders, who he said currently have to travel out of the area for a lot of their training.
The commissioners also plan to use revenue from the impact fee to replace the roof of the Bradford County Courthouse, which is an approximately 3 1/2 million dollar project, he said. A big problem that the roof replacement project would address is “all of the substructure” beneath the copper roof “that has deteriorated due to age,” Miller said.
In part to protect the local area from slowdowns in gas industry activity, the commissioners have started “an aggressive outreach to market our county to create economic development within the county” which involves attracting businesses to the county and helping to retain the jobs that currently exist in the county.
A key part of the marketing effort has been the hiring of Development Counsellors International, a New York City company that is in the process of developing a marketing strategy for the county, Miller said.
Among Bradford County’s features that will help draw companies to the county are its abundant supply of natural gas, which is a low-cost energy source and a feedstock for some types of manufacturing, and the fact that the county is a great place to raise a family, he said.
This article was written by James Loewenstein from The Daily Review, Towanda, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.