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Lower Swatara likely to vote on Shireman tract $300,000 grant tonight

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/21/19

The Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners will decide whether to accept a $300,000 grant to develop a 32-acre parcel called the Shireman tract at its meeting at 7 p.m. today.

The grant requires a …

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Lower Swatara likely to vote on Shireman tract $300,000 grant tonight

Posted

The Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners will decide whether to accept a $300,000 grant to develop a 32-acre parcel called the Shireman tract at its meeting at 7 p.m. today.

The grant requires a $300,000 match. During the Aug. 7 meeting, township manager Betsy McBride recommended accepting the grant, and a plan would need to be submitted for the project.

“I think the bigger decision is to figure out how we’re going to do this financially,” Commissioner Ron Paul said.

“I agree. I don’t like to see money be turned a blind eye to, but you’re right, we need to know where we’re headed with it,” McBride said.

Lower Swatara was awarded a $300,000 grant through the Pennsylvania Office of the Budget’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. According to McBride, township engineers HRG did a preliminary study of the Shireman tract and estimated that it would cost about $2.7 million to put in ball fields, pickleball courts, a playground, a parking lot, trails and stormwater management.

She said she anticipated that the work would be done in phases and asked what could be done with $600,000 to $800,000. HRG staff told her that the township needed about $1.1 million to get the project going.

“I think obviously the township owns the land now. We need to do something with it. The $300,000 is a start. We can match it somehow,” Commissioner Chris DeHart said.

Paul said there’s a need for softball fields. DeHart said he’s heard the needed fields described as both softball and baseball. He suggested working with the athletic association to figure out what it needs.

The township still needs to study all of its parks, DeHart said.

The township received a $15,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural resources to do a township-wide park, recreation and open space comprehensive plan which would then shape a master site plan for the Shireman tract. McBride said HRG is working on the plan and might be done by Thanksgiving.

The township would need about $500,000 to reach the $1.1 million, which McBride had told the Press & Journal wouldn’t include one of the ball fields and pickleball court or all of the parking.

“Is it realistic to even phase this in?” Paul asked. “It seems to me that the largest cost right up front is mobilization and excavation. If you get that in, there’s no sense in just doing one ball field. You might as well grade the site and get those costs out of the way.”

He said mobilization was estimated to cost $190,000 and earth work is projected to cost $700,000.

But Paul said his bigger concern was determining when this would happen. McBride responded that the township had three years to do the project.

“Where would we come up with the extra money? More grants?” DeHart asked.

McBride said the township could apply for additional grants. The match could be worked into next year’s recreation fund budget, Commissioner Mike Davies suggested, and solicitor Peter Henninger estimated that the township had about $300,000 in the fund at the moment and the project would be an eligible expense.

Paul said he was concerned because the plans were preliminary, and the township won’t have an idea how much it will cost until it is designed.

“The likelihood of it being close to these numbers may be erroneous,” Paul said.

McBride asked township engineer Andrew Kenworthy if it was possible to get the project started with $600,000.

It could get the project started, but the scope of construction work would have to match the budget, he said.

McBride said in other municipalities where she’s worked, lots have been developed with passive recreation like trails.

“My guess is we could probably do that with $600,000,” McBride said.