"We had a pledge to get it right and we did."
That's what William Kelly and Kurt Hausammann Jr. said Thursday in response to receiving a revised list from the Public Utility Commission of Marcellus Shale impact fee distributions to municipalities by a Dec. 1 deadline.
Kelly is deputy director and Hausammann, director, of the Lycoming County Department of Planning and Community Development.
After receiving what the county thought were miscalculations by the PUC in mid-October, additional information was sent to the agency.
"We presented to municipal and community leaders our understanding of Marcellus Shale impact fee distribution (Act 13), and how it would be implemented at the local level in April," Wheeland said late Thursday afternoon.
"At that time, we presented our best estimate of gas allocations that each municipality might expect to receive this year," Wheeland said.
The biggest difference locally between those estimates and the original set of numbers released by the PUC in October was that for the City of Williamsport, and it was about half of what city officials were told to expect.
Williamsport is to receive about $560,000 after being told on Oct. 15 the city would be getting about $260,000.
"We also pledged at that time to make sure the well count was right, and to address any problems we found along the way," Wheeland said. "In honor of that pledge, we thoroughly examined the mid-October PUC-generated funding allocations identified for each of our municipalities, and we found a few discrepancies."
The county team researched the issue and notified the PUC of its findings, he added.
"We were informed today that PUC issued a new fund allocation list that corrects the problems that we found and gets the count right," Wheeland said Thursday. "It's reassuring to know the funding estimates are close to the final set of figures."
Kelly explained in a meeting with the Sun-Gazette how the new allocations of impact fee across the county was derived.
"The reason is due to our department and county commissioners picking up on what we believed was a miscalculation by the PUC and asking the PUC to re-examine our estimates," he said.
Other counties similarly contacted the PUC about perceived errors in the initial set of numbers.
Several of the 52 municipalities in the county are receiving less money after the adjustments, noted Hausammann.
Such differences are important because many municipalities are starting to prepare their budgets for next year, he said.
Hughesville Borough Secretary Sherry Young said the borough received a $19,000 check in the mail Thursday. Young said an accompanying letter that came with the check said the borough could expect a supplemental payment of $22,030. "It will be issued in advance of the deadline," she said.
In Montoursville, $121,231, was adjusted down to $98,000, and Loyalsock Township will receive $244,000, after anticipating $300,500, Kelly said.
Reached at the offices by telephone, the Loyalsock Township officials declined to comment.
"Getting it right sets the template for the next set of checks, which are to be distributed in July," Kelly said.
The state gets $50,000 per well, Kelly said. The distribution amount is done through a formula, with 36 percent going to counties within the Marcellus Shale play, 37 percent to municipalities with wells and 27 percent to all municipalities.
"The last part of that is where the problem arose," Kelly said.
As for the city adjustment, Kelly said the department looked at the wells nearest to the city, asking the PUC whether two of them, one in Lycoming Township and another in Upper Fairfield Township, were eligible and within the five linear miles requirement from the city's boundary.
"We calculated and plotted that information and found that they were eligible in distance as the crow flies," Hausammann said. "We drew our line from the closest municipal boundary point by looking at a taxable property and could see it was within the Williamsport tax district," Kelly said.
Another discrepancy was the listing of a well in Fairfield Township, but there were no wells in that township, Kelly said.
"If something didn't seem to add up right, we wanted to check it out," Kelly said.
Using a geographic information system to plot the latitude and longitude of the wells, the planners drew the lines and readjusted their linear miles, sending back the information for the PUC to review.
"Other counties also had questions," Hausammann said. "We presented data for all of the recalculations and didn't know how the PUC would evaluate it," he said. "We didn't know they would adjust their distributions."
"We didn't know if and when we would get the money," Hausammann said. "Over the last two days, some municipalities were reporting to us they received letters showing the adjustments were made."
"You know what's amazing?" Kelly asked at the meeting with the Sun-Gazette. "The adjusted PUC list is almost spot on, within a few percentage points, of our original estimates in April."