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Carbon receives $707,000 from gaming revenues

Published June 11. 2010 05:00PM

Carbon County will receive over $700,000 from gaming revenue at Mount Airy Casino in Monroe County to help complete two projects in the county.

Of the amount, nearly $600,000 will be used to create a turning lane from Route 209 into the Packerton Business Park Project in Mahoning Township.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board approved a local share account commitment letter and contract with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Financing Authority for $599,543.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said the county received notification that it would receive a portion of the gaming fund revenues a few weeks ago.

He noted that the money will be combined with $631,958 that the county received last year from the gaming revenues.

The $1.2 million will be used for Route 209 highway improvements at the entrance of the business park, located in the Packerton Dip. Land owned by the Kovatch family at the site will be purchased and used for the widening of the highway at that location.

O'Gurek credited Speaker of the House Keith McCall (D-Carbon) for his support of Carbon County's projects.

"We're fortunate to receive the grant money and to have the speaker of the house as the primary support of the county's applications," he said.

The highway improvement work will not take place until after the current federal stimulus paving project from Jim Thorpe to Lehighton is completed.

O'Gurek said that unfortunately, timing wasn't on the county's side in regards to the project.

He added that the county expects to have all permits in place for the roadwork by February or March 2011.

In addition to receiving nearly $600,000, Carbon County must spend $21,891.89 on a geomorphological evaluation at the 59-acre site to determine if there are archaeological deposits present.

O'Gurek explained that the evaluation is a result of "issues raised against the county in 2006, when Thomas Zimmerman IV filed a court action against the county and testified in court about the archaeological and historical significance of the property."

He said, "We (the county) have been told by the state historic preservation office that the issue has been raised about the archaeological value of that property so now we're forced to address it. Effectively, that court action is costing us tons of money more than it cost us in 2007."

Commissioner Charles Getz added that he felt the study was "a joke" because this area is littered with artifacts from the Native American tribes that inhabited the area.

The industrialization of the former Packerton Yards site has been in the works since 2002, when Commissioners Getz and O'Gurek included the project as part of their campaign.

On Feb. 25, 2005, the county purchased the site from Joseph and Betty Zaprazny at a cost of $350,000.

Since then, the board has worked with state and federal officials to secure millions of dollars in funding to use for developing the site.

Much controversy circulated around the site in 2006, following the awarding of a contract to Flynn Demolition of Pottsville, to demolish the sole building that stood on the property.

Lancaster County business owners April Koppenhaver and Bruce Clark, as well as Zimmerman of Nesquehoning, filed multiple injunction requests against the county in hopes of stopping the demolition of the last remaining building and the industrialization. Their attempts failed.

The remaining $108,450 the county will receive from the gaming funds will be used for the Stoney Ridge Park and Recreation Center Project (phase I) in Lower Towamensing Township.

O'Gurek said the money will help the county continue work on developing a recreational complex for the Palmerton area.

"We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Community Development Block Grant monies to help move this project along," he said. "When the gaming monies became available we decided to apply on behalf of Lower Towamensing Township."

In addition to Carbon County's two projects, Palmerton was approved for $905,855 for the construction of a firehouse; Franklin Township will receive $76,650 for its Court Street retaining wall replacement project; and Kidder Township will receive $108,450 to upgrade the BLS Ambulance Company to advanced life support services.

A total of $12,506,892 in Mount Airy gaming revenues generated by the Pennsylvania Horse Race and Gaming Development Act or Act 71 was distributed to Monroe County and counties contiguous to Monroe during this round of funding.

Under the act, counties contiguous to Monroe are eligible to receive some of the revenue that is generated at the casino. The money that is being released will help fund a total of 34 projects that range from library construction and improving and creating parks to road repairs and restoring buildings.

The funding is distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Local Share Assessment account.

To qualify for funding, each project had to show that it will serve the public interest and promote economic and community development.

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