PLAINS TWP. – The Woodlands Inn & Resort has yet to file plans with Plains Township regarding a proposed $40 million expansion project, but that didn't stop the establishment from asking the township to apply for state gaming funds on its behalf to help offset costs.
If it can help our community create jobs and tax revenue, why not? said Plains Township Commissioner Bridgette O'Connor, who voted in favor of supporting the Woodlands funding application and five others during a meeting last week. The votes were unanimous.
In addition to the Woodlands, the township has requested gaming funds to help pay for:
• A project to repair flood gates at Courtright Street, Wilson Corners and Center Street in the Plainsville Flats section of the township.
• Improving street conditions in Heavenlee Acres.
• Create a green area and undertake renovations in the area known as The Brick on the corner of Carey and Main streets near Turkey Hill.
• Renovating the former U.S. Army Reserves building on state Route 315. The property is owned by the federal government but can be transferred to the township at no cost, as long as it is used for emergency services purposes. Once transferred, the land will serve as the municipal emergency services headquarters.
• An expansion project at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
When the state approved casino gaming, it also wanted to make sure a percentage of revenues generated by the venues remained local to assist in funding projects to benefit the casino's greater communities, said township Commissioner Ron Filippini. He said all of these projects fall under the law's intent and he supports applying for funding for all of them.
The Commonwealth Financing Authority board reviews the applications and can either award grants in full, partially or it can opt to deny funding.
The funds come from the state's local share assessment account, a state fund intended to reinvest revenue from the state's casinos into surrounding municipalities. To date, projects in Luzerne County have received $39.6 million in local share account funds.
The local share assessment grants for Luzerne County projects are expected to be voted on at the March Commonwealth Financing Authority meeting, said Theresa Elliott, the deputy press secretary for the state Department of Community and Economic Development. She said the deadline for applications is Dec. 31.
That deadline is why projects such as the one the Woodlands is considering are asking for funding now, even before approaching the township with official plans in hand.
In fact, under the grant's guidelines, it is not permitted to have started a project and apply for a grant.
Elliott said the funding is to be used for projects in the public interest, meaning those that improve the quality of life of citizens in the community.
That's what O'Connor and Filippini believe the Woodlands is proposing.
Filippini said he sees the projects as helping the community by creating improvements in some cases and tax and job creation in others. He noted surrounding communities have applied for funds on behalf of projects at colleges and an airport and for a private entity to build medical office space and senior housing units in Kingston.
The project the Woodlands is in the midst of formalizing, said Filippini, who has discussed the plans with the resort's owners at a previous township work session, calls for knocking down cottages on the Woodlands property just north of the hotel and conference center's building along Route 315.
In their place would be built a multilevel building with commercial/office space on the lower floors and apartments on the upper floors.
Messages left with Woodlands owners Ross Kornfeld and Mitch Kornfeld were not returned on Monday.
Plains Township is requesting $2 million in local share dollars from the state's gaming fund to help pay for a $7.05 million project that will enhance the neurosciences, hospitalist and palliative care programs at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Phase I is a privately funded, $3.5 million parking expansion project nearing completion, according to spokesman Matthew Van Stone.
Phase II, for which the township is requesting local share account funding on behalf of Geisinger Wyoming Valley, will include the expansion and renovation of the former orthopedic clinic, which will allow for the consolidation of the medical center's neurosciences institute into one location.
Also included in Phase II will be the conversion of the hospital's third floor into the new home of the hospitalist and palliative care programs. In all, the neurosciences institute at Geisinger Wyoming Valley will double its space to 21,223 square feet and the hospitalist/palliative care programs will quadruple its space to 3,030 square feet. The expansions will create 22 new positions.
To see the list of county projects that have been awarded gaming funds to date, go to: www.newpa.com/webfm_send/2675