- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—SHAMOKIN — City council will again put a multi-million dollar flood control project up for bid.

A pair of bids submitted earlier this month that each topped $6 million were rejected as too costly during a special council meeting Monday.

The project will be re-bid but without a deadline, according to Mayor William D. Milbrand. Deadline was Sept. 12. Council believed the looming cutoff scared away prospective contractors and drove up costs.

The city is seeking a contractor to repair and improve 1.23 miles of Shamokin Creek and Carbon Run damaged by flooding in September 2011. Historic preservation of the stone creek channel behind the city’s downtown is included. Costs are to be fully subsidized by federal grant money.

At least $3.4 million has been approved by Federal Emergency Management Agency, but city officials have kept tight-lipped about the exact allocation since the project is up for bid.

Project scope can’t be scaled back to save money, Milbrand said. If any of the planned repairs were ditched in a cost-savings effort, it would equally reduce the amount of grant dollars allocated.

Land bank

Council voted to officially join a developing land bank organized by the Northumberland County Planning Commission. The vote was 4-1, with Milbrand and council members Barbara Moyer, R. Craig Rhoades and David Kinder in favor; Charles Verano opposed.

Four municipalities have joined the land bank, including Coal Township, Mount Carmel and Mount Carmel Township. Each municipality must contribute $1,000 annually. The Gulotta Group, Carlisle, will serve as consultant.

The land bank will be governed by an independent board which will pursue grant money to jump-start its operation. It has no power of eminent domain. It can obtain properties through purchase, lease or transfer — targeting properties with delinquent taxes due.

The theory is to demolish and develop blighted parcel or rehabilitate deteriorated properties, sell it and return it to local tax rolls. Proceeds are returned to fund other real estate projects. Resulting property taxes are split between the land bank and the municipality for a set amount of years.

Preference would be given to the land bank at judicial sales. Liens and claims can be lifted by the municipalities, with permission of a school district, the law states.

On a related blight note, council will spend $1 plus closing costs to purchase the former Al’s Pizza building at Market and Willow streets. The plan is to use grant funds to demolish the vacant and deteriorated structure.

CDBG funds

Council moved to set its budget for 2015 Community Development Block Grant funding.

Shamokin is expected to receive $288,311 for 2015, according to Lynn Dixson, community development officer. That’s the same amount allocated to 2014, but as of Monday the city hasn’t yet received any of the funding. She expects Shamokin won’t see this year’s allocation until 2016.

Council set aside $115,490.51 on street paving, $70,924.51 for demolition and $50,000 towards the purchase of a new apparatus for the Emergency and Rescue Squad. The remaining $51,895.98 is designated as administrative fees. The state sets that fee at 18 percent.

Choosing which streets to pave may be tricky. Dixson said the latest Census designated about half of Shamokin as low-to-moderate income areas, leaving council members questioning how that came to pass. CDBG funding can fund only projects in those areas. Under the previous Census almost the entirety of Shamokin was designated as low-to-moderate income.

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