The required five-year update of the 2007 Schuylkill County Hazard mitigation Plan is drawing to a close, according to Susan Smith, executive director of the Schuylkill County Planning Commission.

A steering committee has completed updating the plan documents, formulated new goals and identified both county-wide and specific municipal mitigation actions and held public meetings. Many of the county-wide actions relate strongly to land use planning.

The major change is the extension of time from 45 days to 100 days for the applicant to dispute the objections to fees charged by the municipality's professional consultant.

Another change deals with school districts. Added to Section 508.1 of the plan was: "Notice to School Districts - Each month a municipality shall notify in writing to the superintendent of a school district in which the plan for a residential development was finally approved by the municipality. The notice shall include, but not be limited to, the location of the development, the number and types of units to be included in the development and the expected construction schedule of the development."

The final draft of the plan will be posted on the county's website by the end of the month at which time a public comment period will commence. At the closure of the public comment period the plan will be forwarded to PEMA and FEMA for review for compliance with the federal requirements. Thereafter, both the Schuylkill County Commissioners and the 67 municipalities in the county will be required to pass a resolution adopting the plan update.

Director Smith commented, "The purpose of the 2013 Schuylkill County Hazard Mitigation Plan is to update the all-hazard mitigation plan of 2007, to improve Schuylkill County's resistance to natural hazards by identifying actions to reduce the impact of various hazards to municipal residents and structures. The plan is a cooperative partnership between the Schuylkill County offices of Emergency Management and Planning Commission, along with the Conservation District and a consulting team led by Vision Planning and Engineering, LLC. Other critical players in the update process include the Hazard Mitigation Steering Committee, the county municipalities, PEMA, FEMa and the public.

"The Steering Committee developed a set of overarching goals and objectives for the updated plan and used these goals and objectives to establish a county-wide mitigation actions. An implementation plan was created for both the municipal and county mitigation actions. The updated plan examines efforts and identifies cost-effective actions that will reduce or eliminate the damaging impact of hazards within the county. While some projects may be implemented with existing funding sources, this plan will set forth a mitigation strategy and guide the selection of eligible projects from the criteria described in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program process".

Smith also announced as a result of the designation of an area in Monroe County as an urbanized area, the NEPA Rural Planning Organization would likely be transitioned to an Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) sans Wayne County. This organization's purpose is to coordinate transportation planning and programming activities including the administration of the region's transportation improvement program.

NEPA has received an approval letter from PennDOT officially designating Pike, Monroe, Carbon and Schuylkill counties as the NEPO Metropolitan Planning Organization.