3 Carbon boroughs discuss joint plan

Thorpe, Summit Hill, Lansford review firms to help secure funding.

| Special to The Morning Call

October 25, 2007

Carbon County boroughs are preparing to choose a firm to help them apply to fund a joint comprehensive plan for future growth and development.

At a meeting Wednesday, representatives from Jim Thorpe, Lansford, and Summit Hill discussed qualifications of three firms expressing interest in the project, which the group has dubbed the Western Carbon County Regional Comprehensive Plan.

Submitting qualifications were Delta Development Group of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, Spotts Stevens and McCoy of Reading, and Community Planning and Management of Paupack, Wayne County.

After reviewing the packets, borough secretaries Louise McClafferty of Jim Thorpe, Kira Michalik of Summit Hill, and Nicole Tessitore of Lansford said they would call each municipality to seek opinions on each of the three candidates.

Michalik, who sent out requests for the qualifications earlier this week, said at least one more set will be submitted Friday by another firm.

Although officials did not say when a decision would be made, the chosen firm would help the group with its application for Land Use Planning and Technical Assistance Program grant funds, which would cover costs for each borough to make necessary improvements and updates to its current plan -- a requirement that must be met before the municipalities can create a joint plan.

During the meeting, officials also discussed how the boroughs will split the costs associated with creating the plan but did not make a decision.

Michalik said two options being considered are splitting the costs evenly and dividing them based on population. If the latter is chosen, Jim Thorpe would pay the most, with 4,804 residents, followed by Lansford, with 3,230.

Summit Hill, with a population of 2,970, would pay the least.

Tessitore suggested taking other factors into consideration, including the fact that Lansford's plan was updated about a decade ago. Although it is scheduled to last several more years before needing an update, Lansford officials have said several items in the plan are obsolete.

But Tessitore does not believe Lansford's plan would cost as much to revamp as plans from the other two boroughs, which she said have not been updated since the 1960s.

Angelika Forndran of Cowan Associates Inc. of Quakertown -- Jim Thorpe's borough engineer -- said that though some joint plans that incorporate about a dozen municipalities can easily cost $150,000 to implement, costs for this particular plan likely would be much lower because only three boroughs are involved.

Nesquehoning and Coaldale originally were invited to participate, but both declined. Michalik said she may also call Tamaqua to see if it would be interested. A multicounty plan may open doors to additional funds if money can be obtained from both Carbon and Schuylkill counties.

Next steps for the collaborative effort include contacting representatives from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which Michalik said sometimes can pay for up to 25 percent of costs associated with regional growth and development plans. She said she would also contact the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance to see if other funding is available.

''We want to be sure we don't miss any sources'' of funding, said Joseph Micko of the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission.

Micko, who suggested the group include greenway fund applications on its list, said the additional money could allow for land and wildlife preservation in the area.

''You see how much development is going on,'' Micko said. ''It'd be nice to try to save some green, open space.''

Officials said it is unlikely grant applications will be filed by year's end, but McClafferty said she would contact Fred Osifat, who heads Carbon County's office of planning and development, to try to establish an appropriate time frame.

Members of the plan's committee have not yet scheduled another session but said they plan to meet the last week of November.

Ashley Kosciolek is a freelance writer.