Council approves hazard plan, bids

St. Marys City Council recently approved a hazard mitigation plan, making the city eligible for emergency funding if the area should encounter a natural or manmade disaster. "In the event there would be a natural disaster in St. Marys, in order for the city to be eligible for PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency) or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds, the city has to have this ordinance/resolution in place," explained St. Marys City Manager Dave Greene. "If a disaster was declared, no matter what type, the city will be eligible for funding."Greene noted this resolution is reviewed and approved on an annual basis. The Elk County Emergency Services department completed an update of the Elk County Hazard Mitigation Plan and requested the city's adoption of the same in order to receive approval from FEMA.The plan attempts to identify potential natural and manmade disasters, development reaction and mitigation procedures, and implement policies and strategies to reduce losses from future occurrences. The natural and manmade hazards considered to be the most significant for Elk County are: flood, flash flood and ice jam, winter storm, wildfire, drought, landslide, tornado and windstorm, transportation accidents, hazardous materials, dam failure, urban fire and explosion, fuel shortages and terrorism. The mitigation procedures and future deterrent strategies identified by the plan include: improving the public's awareness of hazards in Elk County, reduce wildfire potential through planning and research, implement structural projects to reduce the impacts from flooding including acquisition, elevation and relocation, and improve coordination and communication between disaster response organizations, emergency management entities and local and county governments.The approval of the plan qualifies Elk County for pre-disaster and post-disaster grant funding and achieves a compliance with state and federal legislative requirements related to local hazard mitigation planning.Council also approved the Act 13 Unconventional Gas Well Fee for 2012.Greene explained under Act 13, money from the impact fees from unconventional wells will go to the counties and if the city wants to share in that money they are required to have a resolution in place accepting that money.Also in the event that a different set of commissioners would be elected and the county would rescind this resolution to accept the money, as long as the city has a resolution in place the money could then come to the city instead of the county."Basically nothing's been decided on that yet, but we need to at least have our resolution in place in the event that the PUC (Public Utility Commission) releases that money so we get our fair share, whether or not we agree with what's going on with Act 13 or not," Greene said.According to Greene, the PUC is currently holding such monies, as there is a pending court case over the issue. City Solicitor Tom Wagner confirmed Councilman Greg Gebauer's statement in that the city would reap the benefits of all of the impact fees of each and every unconventional well drilled within the city.Wagner stated that he read that it will be toward the end of the year before any funds will be released by the PUC, with September being the earliest date for disbursements.