A 2-1 vote approving a new staff position at the county level came reluctantly from Lycoming County commissioners Thursday.
Commissioners Jeff Wheeland, Ernie Larson and Tony Mussare all recognized how a stormwater management coordinator would benefit several municipalities and help them stave off crippling fines from state and federal agencies, but wished the need for the position didn't reflect a larger movement of government overreach.
"I'm ready to move forward with this," Larson said before voting in favor of the measure along with Wheeland. "But we don't like to have a gun held to our head. No one does."
Mussare said he was "drawing a line in the sand," but added he won't seek to undermine the position now that it has been approved.
"I will do whatever I can to help facilitate their needs," he said, referencing the nine municipal partners that will benefit from the position.
Those partners, in a coalition operating under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System program, are splitting the $82,500 cost of the position.
The cost includes benefits, workers' compensation and a salary between $34,000 and $37,000 a year, according to Megan Lehman, environmental planner of the county Department of Planning and Community Development.
Lehman said her department and the participating municipalities will work quickly to fill the position by Sept. 1 in order to meet mandates set by, and avoid fines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"A continuous flow of new regulations and reporting requirements produced by the EPA and DEP (and others) is strangling our ability to conduct the efficient operation of local services," Wheeland said. "Battle lines should be drawn and we should prepare to fight back."
"This is government by gunpoint," said Vince Matteo, president of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, but speaking as a citizen and echoing the frustration expressed by the commissioners. "This is the EPA overreaching and imposing regulations that were never passed by elected officials."
The participating municipalities include Williamsport, DuBoistown, Montoursville, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Old Lycoming, Lycoming, Loyalsock, Hepburn and Fairfield townships.
In August, officials from South Williamsport will have the opportunity to join the coalition that will mitigate the responsibility of stormwater management on municipalities, according to Lehman.
Old Lycoming Township Supervisor John Eck said the township staff is "overworked and underprepared," to deal efficiently with matters related to stormwater.
In a unanimous approval, commissioners also voted to grant Muncy an additional $85,000 of gas drilling impact fee funds to go toward an intersection-improvement project in the borough. In May, county commissioners agreed to award the borough $200,000.
The additional funds will go toward the purchase of a property near the intersection at Main and Water streets to reduce traffic congestions related to gas industry vehicles, according to Bill Kelly, county planning and community development deputy director.
"We are following the true intent of Act 13 funds," Wheeland said. "To help municipalities that may not have been directly impacted" by the gas industry.
Muncy Borough Manager Bill Ramsey said the intersection is the oldest in the county, that it's been around since 1790 and hasn't changed much since then.
"Therein lies the problem," he said.
The commissioners also:
Awarded a $2,000 per year contract to Susquehanna Township, which requested the county's services for zoning administration. The county now will enforce the township's zoning ordinance, but the township will retain its zoning hearing board, solicitor and financial responsibilities for enforcement actions.
Awarded a $149,755 bid to Davis-Ulmer Sprinkler Co. Inc. for a contract regarding recycling facility sprinkler modifications.