Carbon County is another step closer to being ready for the first tenants to move into Packerton Business Park. Work on the park is expected to begin this year, pending a state highway occupancy permit.

Commissioners on Wednesday signed off on a sewage agreement with the Mahoning Township Municipal Authority to buy 37 Equivalent Dwelling Unit connections for a total of $162,800, or $4,400 per EDU.

Township officials had inked the agreement earlier.

"We're preparing for the future sewage needs of the business park," said Commissioners Chairman William O'Gurek. He said the county hopes to begin construction this year.

But much hinges on obtaining the highway occupancy permit. The permit, issued by the state Department of Transportation, is needed so the county can begin working on the new access to the park, at Packerton Dam Road. The $5.1 million in funding is in place, O'Gurek said, but $1 million of that could be in jeopardy if the permit is not issued by July 1.

The $1 million – through a federal Economic Development Administration grant – is at risk, he said. Former U.S. Congressman Paul Kanjorski had secured the grant for the county. The county is using a blend of state and federal grant monies to avoid using county funds for the project.

"We submitted plans to PennDOT (for the permit) two or three different times, maybe more than that. It's a bear – there are access issues there and safety concerns," O'Gurek said. Initially, the county submitted plans that called for the access to stay where it is, at Packerton Dip. But that was moved farther down Route 209, to Packerton Dam Road, for safety reasons.

PennDOT's district executive told the county engineer that a meeting is expected to be held within a couple of weeks to "address whatever outstanding concerns are there," he said.

The plans also include a new railroad crossing to be done this year, he said. The improvements would be where the Norfolk Southern and Reading and Northern rail lines cross the current access in the Packerton Dip. the rail companies are doing the engineering work for the project.

"It's going to be state-of-the-art, with arms, flashers and coordination of both railroads," O'Gurek said.

The agreement with Mahoning Township calls for the county to install the sewer line and lateral connections in compliance with the township's ordinances, he said. The payment is due at the final approval of the subdivision by the township supervisors.

The system will eventually be turned over to the municipal authority, O'Gurek said.

The county bought the 59-acre area known as the Packerton Rail Yards in 2005 for $350,000. The parcel had been used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad as a repair facility until 1973. Commissioners expect the industrial park to eventually generate 350 jobs.