PLAINS TWP. — Cheaper garbage bags for residents of the host community is just one example of how having a casino can benefit Luzerne County municipalities and businesses.
Dozens of Luzerne County municipalities will learn this week if they will receive a share of more than $12 million in state gaming grants to help fund projects within their borders.
Plains Township Commissioner Ron Filippini said the township has applied for a grant for a new fire engine pumper at around $500,000. He said other grants are being sought to refurbish “The Brick” in the center of town for $50,000 and to purchase air packs for township police and fire personnel.
“We were able to reduce our garbage bag fee from $75 to $25 per 50 bags,” Filippini said. “That saves about $250,000 to $300,000 per year for all residents — homeowners and renters.”
Filippini said the township hopes to spruce up The Brick area, located at Main and Carey streets, in front of a new Turkey Hill store.
“The township has benefited in many ways since the casino opened,” Filippini said. “For instance, we have made street repairs and storm sewer improvements in the past.”
The Commonwealth Financing Authority is scheduled to meet today to announce the projects that will be getting funding through the Local Share Account, which receives gaming money generated by slot play at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Township.
Lyndsay Kensinger, deputy press secretary at the CFA, said a vote is expected this afternoon and a release announcing the successful grant applicants will follow.
More than 79 applications were made totalling approximately $47 million. They ranged from $3 million to support the renovation of the Ramada Inn on Public Square, which was purchased by King’s College and is being transformed into educational use, to as little as $37,500 to help pay for a police department garage for Nescopeck Borough.
The total to be awarded has not been announced, but based on previous years, it’s expected to be in the $12 million range.
Spokeswoman Liza Prokop said Wilkes-Barre city has applied for grants in excess of $8 million. The projects include:
• King’s College on the Square/Ramada Hotel, $3 million.
• Kirby Park track and field renovations, $1.53 million.
• Camera system network upgrade, $1.5 million.
• Coal Exchange Building renovations, $1.35 million.
• Solomon Creek floodgate retrofitting, $765,000.
• Fingerprint identification system, $42,668.
Last year, 37 county projects shared in $12.5 million in local share grants. In 2012, 2011 and 2010, about $12 million in funds were divided annually. In 2009, $13.8 million was awarded and in 2008, $11.5 million was dished out.
In 2013, Filippini said the township sponsored a $400,000 grant for Geisinger Hospital, located just up the hill from the casino.
Matt Van Stone, Geisinger spokesman, said the money was used to revamp the neurosciences area, as well as the areas for hospital-based physicians and palliative medicine specialists to accommodate additional staffing in a more suitable work area.
Since the first gaming grants were awarded in 2008, more than $73 million has been allocated to projects big and small throughout Luzerne County. They’ve ranged from $24,144 for a Nescopeck police cruiser to $12 million to help fund roadway work from Interstate 81 and state Route 315 into the sprawling CenterPoint East Commerce & Trade Park in Jenkins Township.