April 2012 Archives

Indiana Roads in Disrepair

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In 2010, the Reason Foundation published its "19th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems." The report lists Pennsylvania as 38th on the list on the quality and performance of state highways.
Some Indiana locals said it's not just Pennsylvania's highways that need repair, but also the streets in Indiana.

Scott M. Lewis, 21, of Indiana, said the roads east of Wayne Avenue including Washington Street, Grant Street and School Street are in disrepair. Lewis said potholes have damaged his car frequently requiring three wheel alignments in the last year and a half.

Likewise, Julie R. Reed, 26, of Indiana, said workers repair roads frequently but the results are usually temporary and side streets are left in disrepair.

"Let's not even talk about 119," Reed said April 28 in an interview.

Reed gave her opinion on local roads in the following audio interview.
Julie Reed Interview by Mike Sullivan 8


Below is a slideshow of road damage found on Eighth Street, School Street and East Olive Street in Indiana and repair work on Philadelphia Street.


(Road damage on Indiana streets - taken by Michael Sullivan)

Lastly, to show what I believe is the worst road in Indiana, I drove along Medlar Drive behind Copper Beech Townhomes until it connects to Acorn Avenue. Below is the video I shot using my iPhone 4. Note the bouncing in the video created by the bumpiness of the road.

Shale Impact Fees and sites that may be affected

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Gov. Tom Corbett signed the Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee Act into law Feb. 14, 2012.

According to a presentation created by the the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the legislation, referred to as Act 13, amends Pennsylvania gas and oil legislation to include a fee for unconventional wells including Marcellus Shale drilling sites.

The presentation states that counties may impose fees if wells exist within its borders and have imposed an ordinance by April 16. Municipalities may also compel their county to adopt an ordinance if one has not been adopted by June 13.

Rosemary Chiavetta, secretary for the PUC, states in a Feb. 23 letter that the PUC is  responsible for collecting, determining and disbursing impact fees. Additionally, she states that the PUC is responsible for reviewing local ordinances if requested by residents, owners of the wells, or municipalities.

The PUC plans to administer fees based on the following information.

Screen shot 2012-04-22 at 10.51.29 AM.png(Impact Fee Formula and Schedule - Screenshot of PUC document)

According to the PUC presentation, the fees collected will be used to offset impact of drilling statewide with remaining funds to be given to municipalities and counties, receiving 60 percent of the remainder, and statewide initiatives receiving 40 percent.

permit_animation.gif 
(Penn State University map of Marcellus Shale drilling permits in Pennsylvania)
 
Below is a slideshow created with screenshots from Google Maps of the Marcellus Shale wells in Indiana County. Note - There was a soundtrack with this slideshow, however, all programs and websites capable of combining the two require payment, which I do not have. So please enjoy and know that I hope to find a solution soon.



(Photo of Marcellus Shale Well - Taken from IUP's website)


Alstom, a French-based conglomerate, announced a contract Friday worth approximately $95 million to supply Homer City Generating Station with pollution reduction systems.

According to a press release, Alstom plans to supply NID Dry Flue Gas Desulphurization Systems for the plant's two coal-fired units to reduce sulfur dioxide, mercury, and other pollutants being emitted from the plant.

The Center for Decease Control and Prevention's fact sheets about sulfur dioxide and mercury indicate prolonged exposure can cause severe health problems. Sulfur dioxide exposure causes damage to the respiratory health of both humans and animals. The fact sheets state that low-vapor concentrations of mercury over long periods of time can cause neurological disturbances, memory problems, skin rash and kidney abnormalities. Higher concentrations cause sever lung damage.

Concerns over pollution levels emitted by the plant have been long standing.

According to an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the state Department of Environmental Protection fined the plant $200,000 in 2007 for selenium discharges into local streams.

In 2011, the Post-Gazette reported that DEP and the Environmental Protection Agency sued the Homer City plant for allegedly not meeting federal standards, however, the case was dismissed in October.

But Alstom's new equipment may change these concerns, or at least Alstom seems optimistic it may.

"We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this important step towards lowering the environmental impact of power generation activities at Homer City," said Jim Yann, Managing Director of Alstom's North American Environmental Control Systems, in a press release Friday. 

IUP, PASSHE to pay taxes on Robertshaw

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(IUP's Robertshaw Building -- Photo taken by Michael Sullivan)

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania denied a petition Friday from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for tax immunity in regard to the Robertshaw Building on Rose Street in White Township, Pa.

According to court documents, IUP and PASSHE filed a petition for tax immunity Sept. 30, 2011, against the Indiana Area School District, Indiana County, and the Indiana County Board of Assessment Appeals. The petition came less than a month after President Judge Bonnie B. Leadbetter denied a previous petition for tax exemption Aug. 5.

The document states that until 2011, the property was listed as exempt from taxation by the Indiana County Assessment Office as part of the Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone, which expired in 2011.

But the conflict began in 2010.

According to the document, IUP received a tax notice in March 2010 demanding more than $30,000 in taxes on property valued at nearly $1 million. But on July 10, 2010, an Indiana County assessor allegedly discovered commercial leases on campus and filed a notice removing the exempt status.

The commercial leases in the document refer to Eberly College of Business and Information Technology's Indiana County Small Business Incubator housed in the Robertshaw Building.

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(Indiana County Small Business Incubator -- Photo taken by Michael Sullivan)

The incubator's website states that the incubator, established in 1986, is "dedicated to increasing Indiana County's economic prosperity by encouraging high-tech development and industrial diversification" by assisting start-up and developing companies. Services provided include a low initial rent and student interns.

IUP does receive rent from participating companies, however, in the document, PASSHE argued that it is equal to the state in regard to tax immunity. Judge Bernard L. McGinley ruled that PASSHE is not equal to the state and that it acted outside of its government purpose. However, he stated there wasn't enough evidence to determine taxability. 

Court documents state that taxes would be collected on the portions of PASSHE's property where commercial rent is collected.


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Political Contributions: A table

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In order for a party or person to be elected, they must have support.

In a political campaign, support comes in various forms such as lawn placards, rallies, etc. But the most important element of that support is money. Money makes that world go round and it helps politicians win. But where is that money coming from?

With the 2012 presidential election creeping closer, all eyes are on politicians, including the eyes of industries or organizations looking to fund their preferred candidates. But this entry does not look at the presidential race, but rather the politicians representing Indiana County, Pa. Below is a table summarizing the top contributors, industries and dollar amounts sorted by politician.
PoliticianTop Contributor Top Industry or Sector Source
Sen. Pat ToomeyClub For Growth$838,641 Republican/Conservative$1,258,090 OpenSecrets.org
Sen. Bob CaseyComcast
$107,175 Lawyers/Law Firms$1,779,129 OpenSecrets.org
U.S. Rep. Bill ShusterNew Enterprise Stone & Lime$15,300 Railroads$47,645 OpenSecrets.org
U.S. Rep. Mark CritzTied between - Rosebud Mining and American Crystal Sugar$15,000 (each)Mining$68,226 OpenSecrets.org
State Rep. Jeff PyleJames C. Forrest III (Rosebud Mining) $23,000 Mining$49,855 FollowtheMoney.org
State Rep. Dave ReedThomas J. Smith (TJS Mining)$20,000 Mining$63,650 FollowtheMoney.org
State Rep. Sam SmithTied between - Comcast and Pennsylvania Future Fund$25,000 (each)Electric Utilities$30,125 FollowtheMoney.org
State Sen. Donald C. WhiteStudents First$20,000 Insurance$66,512 FollowtheMoney.org

The links used above link directly to the organizations' websites. If a link is missing for a company or organization, it is because there is no official website.

Readers, what conclusions do you draw from Indiana County's politicians in regard to political contributions?

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2012 is the previous archive.

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