Carbon County and Weatherly Borough are combining efforts, and grant money, in an initiative that will result in a brand new government complex in the Weatherly area.
During the weekly meeting of the county's Board of Commissioners held Thursday in the Courthouse Annex, Jim Thorpe, the commissioners approved and executed a subgrantee agreement between the county and the borough for the latter to receive $475,000 in federal grant funds that will be part of a multimillion construction project in 2014.
As a result of the action, Weatherly will construct a building on the former Tung-Sol Plant property where the county will occupy it for the future Magisterial District office currently headed by Judge Joseph Homanko.
Commissioner William O'Gurek explained the project, in part, saying that the $475,000 the county is giving to the borough is actually a 2009 grant that former Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski had secured for the county prior to leaving office.
"I hope people realize how good Congressman Kanjorski was to this county," O'Gurek said afterward.
The Economic Development Initiative grant is an "earmark" Kanjorski secured through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
O'Gurek detailed how the funds will be joined with other monies that will also leverage a third "pot of money" that eventually will result in Weatherly receiving over $2 million for the project, in which the borough will also build a government complex of its own. Weatherly borough manager Harold Pudliner, who is also a member of the Carbon County Redevelopment Authority, which works on similar grant projects, is handling the project, O'Gurek said.
The commissioner explained Weatherly plans to build new borough and police department offices and has secured two Local Share grants from state gaming monies that will be used with the county's money, plus the value of the land, to access Pa. Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funding. He said the commonwealth recently released its RACP allocations, in which up to $2 million has been set aside for the Weatherly project.
Because RACP requires a dollar-for-dollar match, and also mandates a million dollars be the required funding amount, the project becomes viable, O'Gurek said.
"This is a great project whereby the county is able to work with the borough, and because collectively we have over $1 million to match the RACP funding, it will mean over $2 million will be available to help get the complex under way," O'Gurek said.
The county has been looking to relocate the magistrate's office in order to meet the demands of its growth in northern Carbon County. Initially, the commissioners approved the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation to be the subgrantee and the corporation had planned to renovate the former American Last Company property in Packer Township for the new magistrate's office. Commissioner Tom Gerhard said those plans fell through due to a number of problems with the property, most especially the on-lot sewage needs.
The commissioners said Pudliner has indicated he plans to have all of the grant paperwork in place this month and that he hopes to have the project out to bid by October. It is expected ground-breaking can take place in January and that the buildings can be built and ready for occupancy in 2014.
The commissioners said their preliminary discussion with the borough regarding a long-term lease for the magistrate's office have been fruitful and it is likely the county will receive a "sweetheart deal" from the borough regarding renting the building it will be helping to build.
"It will result in a savings to the county for many years with a lesser rental fee," O'Gurek said.