LEWISTOWN Mifflin County is being asked to partner with two neighboring counties as well as other entities to consider participating in a regional natural gas Initiative which, if approved by the federal government, could provide additional incentives for increased economic development to the area.
Rob Postal, president of the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation, was on hand at Wednesday's workshop meeting of the Mifflin County Commissioners to float a proposal to seek the county's participation in a study to exploit the availability of affordable natural gas for current and potential large industrial manufacturers.
"We've been approached by SEDA-COG, along with Centre and Clinton counties to look into this project," Postal said. According to Postal, Centre and Clinton counties have agreed to put up $20,000 each and he is asking the commissioners for $5,000 to put toward matching the federal dollars needed to get the study off the ground. "MCIDC is committing $5,000 and the remaining $10,000 will come from other entities," Postal added.
Postal said natural gas is currently available to tenants at the Mifflin County Industrial Park and Plaza, however, it is not available for other large companies, citing Standard Steel and First Quality Baby Products as examples.
"We need to more efficiently get gas to industrial areas to companies that don't have access," he stated. There are pipelines coming here from the north, but we don't have the delivery to get it to these areas."
Postal said his office often receives inquiries from manufacturers wanting to know the availability of rail lines, water, gas, land and broadband. "If you wait for the big gas lines to come here, that company will go away," Postal added. "We need to look at how to exploit the availability of this low-cost energy."
Postal said the study is still in the planning stages and may, for whatever reasons, never get off the drawing board. "It's possible this thing will go away but we have to put the match out there just in case," he noted. "Right now we're only asking you for a pledge. We have time to figure out how to pay it during the time line of the study, which would probably take 24 months. We're just trying to get proactive with this natural gas play. We can use this as an incentive for economic growth."
In other business Wednesday, Chris Wysocki, administrator of Juniata Valley Behavioral & Development Services, presented an interim re port to discuss end-of-year issues and to look ahead to the next fiscal year.
"We pretty much have everything finished up for the last fiscal year," Wysocki said. "We have a little bit of money to carry over, but nothing dramatic."
Wysocki said the organization provided treatment services to 464 individuals on the mental health side last year, and 251 with intellectual disabilities. One area that saw a sharp increase was in early intervention. "We had 45 children receiving services and only 22 the year before that, so there's a significant increase in that area," he noted.
As far as the year ahead, Wysocki said current application letters have been received and there will be a slight increase in early intervention dollars. "The other two services will be within allocation," he predicted.
In other business, Commissioner Mark Sunderland announced the following agenda items for the next business session, scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 6:
A purchase of service agreement for use, if needed, by Children & Youth, with Soulberry Farm Inc. of Huntingdon.
A request from Miffco Tax Services for exoneration of the county portion of the per capita taxes for the years 1983 to 2011 totaling $1,231.50.