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Lebanon Valley Rail Trail received permission Thursday from the Lebanon County Commissioners to apply for a $750,000 state grant to further expand the trail in northern Lebanon County.

The county commissioners approved the organization’s request to apply to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for Phase 10B funding, which is projected to cost nearly $3.2 million, according to Tom Kotay, grant writer and board member of LVRT.

Kotay said the organization is negotiating with PennDOT for an additional $2.45 million, which would cover the balance of the project costs. “They (PennDOT) have two funding sources for us to pursue in that regard and it looks very, very positive that we will get that match from them later this year,” said Kotay. 

Kotay said phase 10B – which would begin construction in 2025 if fully funded in 2023 – starts at Pine Tree Road in Union Township. The 2.8-mile trail will utilize the existing rail bed, go under Interstate 78 via an existing tunnel, and end in Lickdale at Lickdale Road, which is the most northern portion of the trail that’s owned by the county. 

The complete map of trails throughout Lebanon and surrounding counties. Note that some details of the completion and progress of various segments are now outdated. Click here for a high-res image of the map that will open in a new tab. (LVRT)

Kotay expressed great enthusiasm for the project given how rural and beautiful that area of the county is. “It is the most drop-dead gorgeous section of the trail,” said Kotay. “Very pristine, very unique.”

Also calling the area amazing, Kotay added there is native trout production and Baltimore oriole colonies that live there. “When John Wengert talks about it, he says it is like you are out in Wyoming when you’re on that portion of the trail. It is that beautiful.”

Combined with the previously approved Phase 10A project, which runs 0.7 of a mile, the total area for Phases 10A/10B totals 3.5 miles. 

The dark lines on this map indicate the location of Phase 10B of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. (Meeting handout)

An update dated March 2023 notes a Phase 10A state grant totaling $400,000 was just approved by DCNR for that project, which sits north of Route 22 and goes to Pine Tree Road. Phase 10A should go to construction in late summer 2023 with the cost for that work being matched with $400,000 in county funds. 

In a separate item involving LVRT, the commissioners voted to co-sign an agreement for post-construction stormwater management with the City of Lebanon and North Cornwall Township for Phases 6A and 6B, respectively. Phase 6B begins near HA Boyd and runs west to 22nd Street to a connector that goes into the township’s Gloninger Woods Park.

LebTown file photo from the groundbreaking of Phases 6A and 6B at Chestnut Street in Lebanon, just north of the former Lebanon Catholic School complex. (LVRT)

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In other county business, the commissioners agreed to move $241,502 from community block grant funding that was received from the federal government as part of the CARES Act during the pandemic to other program areas. 

Dan Lyons, programs director for the Redevelopment Authority, said the funding was originally earmarked to assist people who lost their jobs or needed rental assistance during the pandemic.

“By the time that we received the money, we were multiple rounds into the Paycheck Protection Program, the CARES Rental Relief Program, and the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which really made this money redundant,” said Lyons.“We have a small group of agencies that can use the money who have an unending need and meet the strict requirements of the block grant funding program.”

In what Commissioner chairman Robert Phillips said was “a busy time frame” for the county’s personnel department, the commissioners accepted the retirement notification of Carol Davies, administrator of the Lebanon Area Agency on Aging, effective June 17 with her last day being June 16.

The commissioners also agreed to approve various personnel moves within the county’s public defender’s and district attorney’s offices. They voted to eliminate one full-time assistant district attorney position, effective March 20, as well as revamp or add other positions in the DA’s office. 

Commissioners also granted the district attorney’s request to reclassify two current full-time assistant district attorney 1 ADA positions from a grade 15 on the non-union salary chart to two new full-time senior deputy district attorney positions to a grade 16 on the non-union salary chart. Both positions are set at 40 hours per week with full-time benefits, effective March 20. 

The commissioners then approved the transfer of Christopher Rothermel from an assistant public defender 1 apprentice at the public defender’s office to assistant DA 1 in the DA’s office, effective April 17, at a rate of $1,956.57 biweekly.

Other moves included the transfer of Kevin Dugan from his assistant public defender 1 position in the public defender’s office to senior deputy district attorney in the district attorney’s office at a rate of $3,064.61 biweekly, effective March 20. 

A similar move was granted for the transfer of Brian Deiderick, chief public defender to senior deputy district attorney in the district attorney’s office at a rate of 3,807.69 biweekly, effective May 1. 

A change of status for Daniel Linares-Herrador from assistant district attorney assistant DA/interpreter at a rate of $2,247.48 biweekly and an additional $57.69 biweekly for interpreter services, effective March 20, was approved by the commissioners.

The commissioners also gave approval to the following applications for county aid for local municipalities as part of the liquid fuel tax funds. The municipality, designated project funding request, estimated total project cost and amount provided by the county are:

  • North Lebanon Township, road salt, $39,180, $12,041
  • Jackson Township, line painting, $20,000, $9,348
  • Bethel Township, general road maintenance, $5,132, $5,132
  • Millcreek Township, general road maintenance, $4,370, $4,368
  • Union Township, road salt, $7,866.56, $2,932
  • Jonestown Borough, general road maintenance, $1,638, $1,638
  • Richland Borough, street sweeping, $4,000, $1,496
  • West Lebanon Township, road salt, $8,046.79, $833.

In other county business, the commissioners voted to: 

  • Accept six contract amendments from the county’s Mental Health/Intellectual Development/Early Intervention department totaling $118,347.
  • Grant a Hazardous Material Emergency Preparedness grant using $3,300 in county funding to match a federal grant of $13,200. The funding will be used to cover costs related to hazmat training.
  • Approve a Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency grant in the amount of $15,018 to purchase Ludlum Frisker equipment in the amount of $4,200 for the county’s Department of Emergency Services personnel to detect radiation levels during emergency incidents. The balance of the grant will be used to purchase chairs for the department’s Emergency Operations Center. 
  • Sign a change order for construction of the new 911 Center in the amount of $135,008 for electrical work related to the project.
  • Agree to provide a funding request of $4,350 to the Friends of Cornwall Iron Furnace for an event to recognize former Cornwall Mines workers. The event is expected to have 20-plus miners and over 100 family members from around the country attend the June 17 event at the Cornwall Elementary School. The event is free and community members are encouraged to attend.
  • Provide two real estate exemption requests. One was for a disabled veteran and the other was for the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran.
  • Approve the minutes of their March 2 meeting
  • Accept the treasurer’s report as presented. 
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James Mentzer

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; and Lancaster...