Governor recognizes Dauphin County program to reinvest what you pay at the pump

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A program designed to reinvest what you pay at the pump is getting accolades from the governor.

Dauphin County’s infrastructure bank, created by county commissioners in 2013, is being recognized by the state’s highest office for offering low-interest loans for transportation-related projects. But one of two projects currently funded by such loans isn’t a crowd favorite for the people affected by it.

The last few months have been rough from Kristen Zellner. “It’s been going on intermittently,” she said of construction on Sixth Street in Susquehanna Township.

Zellner owns Abrams and Weakley General Store for Animals, set about half a block back from that road. “We’re getting phone calls and people coming in frustrated.”

The reason? A massive storm sewer replacement project going on since last summer. Crews have been systematically working through the neighborhood between Front and Sixth streets, ripping up road to replace the old system.

“It’s been quite a mess and it’s been really challenging for us,” said Zellner, who lives and works in the area. Her customers have trouble getting to her shop and her business is hurting because of it.

Susquehanna Township board of commissioners president Frank Lynch said it’s long overdue.

Now the program that made it possible, the county infrastructure bank, is being recognized with a Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence. County commissioners believe the bank is the first of its kind in the state and possibly the nation.

It’s funded by what you pay at the pump. The program uses some of your gas taxes to fund super-low interest loans for transportation projects.

Through that program, the storm sewer project got a loan of $4.8 million from the county. Over the course of four years, the county says, it’s loaned out $12.2 million, and that money’s been used to help leverage $30.5 million more in additional funding.

Lynch loves the program. He said without that loan, other taxes would have gone up for township residents because they couldn’t wait any longer to start the project and would have found funding through bonds or higher-interest loans.

As for the frustration for those who live and work near the construction, he said, there are bound to be delays with any major project that has to coordinate various utilities.

But it’ll be worth the headaches to get relief from flooding, he said.

“I’m sure it’s always worth it when you’re improving things,” Zellner said. She gets that it’s for the greater good, but the loan can’t make up for lost business.

“People,” she said, “real people and real businesses are affected by what is going on outside.”

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