Jun. 29, 2018

Grant Program to Help Schools Fund Safety Improvements

As part of the 2018-19 state budget package, a $60 million block grant program will allow schools to apply for grants to be used for a variety of safety and security enhancements.

The program is designed so that schools have maximum flexibility to use the funding to meet their own specific needs.

Those needs could include hiring school police officers, school resource officers, counselors and/or mental health counselors; alternative education and diversion programs; violence prevention initiatives; school safety and emergency preparedness plans; or physical upgrades to school buildings and equipment to improve safety.
Hotline Created to Encourage Threat Reporting

To help prevent violent incidents, an individual will soon be able to submit an anonymous report via a phone, computer or smartphone app through the new Safe2Say program.

Under Act 44 of 2018, the new tip line would allow students, teachers and community residents to anonymously report any unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in schools.

The tip line, administered by the Office of Attorney General, will be staffed by trained professionals who can appropriately respond to the situation and provide the reporter peace of mind that their concern will be addressed.

It is modeled after the Safe2Tell program in Colorado, which has received more than 30,000 reports since its inception in 2004, including reports of a planned school attack, suicidal threats and child abuse.
New Law to Enhance School Safety

As a way to give school officials more guidance in creating safer schools, Act 44 of 2018 also calls for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to offer a uniform approach to evaluating current security measures in every school building in Pennsylvania.

It will also require schools to provide employees with mandatory training on school safety and security, and mandate school security drills to be held in each school annually.

A final component of the new law will allow public school entities, such as school boards, to go into private, executive session for school safety discussions. This will allow school officials to freely debate and develop security plans that address the needs of their schools without disclosing their plans to would-be attackers.
Utility Work Rescheduled on West Fourth Street in the Newberry Section of Williamsport

Utility work on State Route 2014 (West Fourth Street) in the Newberry Section of Williamsport will now begin on Thursday, July 5. This work previously was expected to start this week.

The contractor, J. F. Keily Construction Company, will relocate a UGI gas main in advance of the department’s roadway reconstruction project.

There will be a lane closure with flaggers providing traffic control. Motorists are encouraged to take alternate routes or use caution when driving through the work zone.

This gas main relocation project is expected to be complete in October.
Impact Fee Revenue Tops $1.4 Billion

Nearly $9 million in revenue between the Lycoming County and municipal distributions in revenue from Marcellus Shale impact fees will benefit our area, according to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Statewide, more than $209.6 million was derived from fees collected from the 2017 reporting year, which is $36 million more than last year. That boost is attributed to an increase in the number of wells in Pennsylvania, along with an increase in the average annual price of natural gas compared to the previous year.

In total, county and municipal governments directly affected by drilling will receive a total of $114.8 million with $76.5 million being transferred to the Marcellus Legacy Fund, which provides financial support for environmental, highway, water and sewer projects, rehabilitation of greenways and other projects throughout the state. Also, $18.25 million will be distributed to state agencies.

The PUC, which collects the fees, has established an interactive website through which visitors can search and download statistics, such as distributions to individual municipalities or counties; allocation and usage of those funds, based on reports submitted by various municipalities; eligible wells per county/municipality; and payments by producers.

Since the impact fee was implemented, nearly $1.4 billion in revenue has been generated – with every county receiving funding.

This revenue from Pennsylvania’s drilling activity is more than the drilling tax collected by the states of West Virginia, Ohio, Arkansas and Colorado combined, despite these four states producing more natural gas than Pennsylvania.
Independence Day Reminders

More than 240 years ago next week in Philadelphia, the 13 American colonies signed the Declaration of Independence to break free from British rule. To read more about the origins of American independence and our forefathers, click here.

If you are traveling, check out 511pa.com, which is free and available 24 hours a day. The site, along with its Twitter handle @511pa, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information and access to more than 770 traffic cameras. For more local information, click here.

PennDOT will also close its driver license service centers on Wednesday, July 4. Customers may still obtain a variety of driver and vehicle products and services, including all forms, publications and driver training manuals, online through PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, dmv.pa.gov.

Have a safe and happy July Fourth!