The Carbon County Board of Commissioners, on Thursday, opened bids for seven home rehabilitation program projects in the county. This program helps low-income residents fix problems at their home.

The recipients, who remain anonymous as part of the program's process, can receive up to $12,000 in funding through Act 137, which is generated through fees charged for the recording of documents in the Carbon County Recorder of Deeds office. Those funds are then used to repair necessary items in residents' homes such as heating systems, roofing, siding, or electrical and plumbing systems.

This year's bids ranged from $1,150 to $21,596. Contracts will either be awarded or rejected at the April 11 commissioners' meeting.

Program coordinator, Jim Martino, of the Carbon County Office of Planning and Development, explained that the home rehab projects can consist of a number of items and that if the project bids come in over the $12,000 they are allotted, then the homeowners can either pay the difference or change the scope of work to be completed.

He added that the person must own the home and reside in it; or if in the event of a trailer, must own the property in which the trailer is located on.

Commissioner William O'Gurek also explained that the county does this program as a way to help the residents in need.

The program started in 2000, after county Recorder of Deeds Emmett McCall implemented fees on all property transfers in the county, per state approval.

Since then, the fees have generated millions for housing rehabilitation projects and administration costs.

The county tries to help as many homeowners as it can in a year through this program, but the waiting list continues to grow.

O'Gurek said that there are income guidelines families must meet to be eligible for the program.

The program is free, as long as the homeowner does not sell the house within three years of the rehabilitation project. If they do, then they must repay the county the cost of the project.

O'Gurek urged anyone who feels they may qualify for the program to call the Carbon County Office of Planning and Development for more information on income guidelines.

They can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at (570) 325-3671.

In other matters, the commissioners also spoke about the upgrade to the Mermon Avenue railroad crossing in Nesquehoning.

A field investigation and conference will be held with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission at the crossing at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 10, to discuss the application and design plans. It will involve, in addition to the PUC, the county commissioners, who own the tracks at the crossing; C&S Railroad, who manages the railroad for the county; the borough of Nesquehoning; Panther Valley School District; and utility vendors.

O'Gurek said that the purpose of the field investigation is to put lights and safety arms at the railroad track crossing along Mermon Avenue.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation made the application in accordance with federal section 130 of the Federal Rail Safety Program, which provides money for safety devices at crossings on public roads. These funds require a match of $6,500, which Panther Valley is going to provide to design the new intersection.

O'Gurek pointed out that the crossing sees about 548 vehicles cross over daily.

"There are a lot of cars going over that so it is a valid concern," he said, adding that he is glad Panther Valley will provide the fees for the design work and PennDOT is applying to make the project a reality.

The crossing has been in the works since 2011, when Nesquehoning filed a complaint against the county; Carbon and Schuylkill Railroad; PennDOT; and Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad over the crossing, which is used also daily by the Panther Valley School District, which has its elementary school along that road. In the complaint, Nesquehoning alleged that the condition of the crossing was unsafe, dangerous, and hazardous and needed to be repaired.

In February 2012, the PUC ruled that PennDOT will provide funding required for the installation of warning devices as a safety improvement; C&S Railroad will provide funding and will complete the installation of a concrete panel surface of the crossing, and install and maintain the safety warning devices; Nesquehoning will complete work on the approaches to the crossing, up to the concrete work and maintain the approach signage.