HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — A new report says better guidance must be given to local governments on how they are spending impact fees generated by natural gas drilling.
North Strabane Township is one of the local communities mentioned in the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s report.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says the impact fees generated from natural gas drilling were intended to help local governments cope with the burden of drilling, like preventing water well pollution and fixing roads damaged by transporting heavy drilling machinery.
But, when an audit was done for the years 2012 to 2016, he said he wasn’t pleased with what he saw going on in North Strabane Township.
“We used that money to maintain our park, our buildings, our ground. Some of the money was spent on equipment,” North Strabane Township Manager Frank Siffrinn said.
Siffrinn says they used that money for parks and recreation, a category in Act 13 that he says was allowed.
“I think there needs to be some guidelines provided going forward as to how the money specifically is to be spent if that’s the intent of what the legislature is,” Siffrinn said.
In the report, the township spent $32,602 for community recreation events and holiday celebrations. The Impact Fee funds were spent on food, party supplies, prizes/awards and entertainment. The most notable expenditures were $7,500 on fireworks, $4,250 on inflatable party rentals, and $1,200 for a live performance by previous American Idol contestant Adam Brock.
Since then, Saffrinn says the money received from impact fees has gone to other sectors of government.
“We use that money for public safety services and fire protection,” Siffrinn said.
“While this is technically a criticism of the PUC, they acted with the law. The problem is with the law we believe needs to be improved so these types of errors don’t happen again,” DePasquale said.
Saffrinn said he will be reaching out to the state Auditor General’s Office in Harrisburg Wednesday to make sure everyone is on the same page moving forward.