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Schuylkill County News

Boots Says He “Won’t Go Back on My Word” to Sell Western Schuylkill Land

That the land can’t be mined is fake news, some say.

Schuylkill County Commissioner Boots Hetherington said Wednesday that he won’t go back on his word to sell two parcels of county-owned land to a non-profit organization that wants to hand them over to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

In short, Hetherington came to a Commissioners meeting back in March with a little prepared dog-and-pony show to pitch the idea of selling more than 900 acres of land in Porter and Tremont townships.

Actually, it was less a pitch and more of a one-sided discussion on why the County was going to sell the land. At that time, the public heard about all the reasons why the County should sell it.

Discussion on the matter was not really welcome then and that continued last week and on Wednesday at the Commissioners Work Session meeting.

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The Commissioners did approve the sale of the land to The Nature Conservancy last month by a 2-1 vote. Commissioner George Halcovage opposed the sale then and continues to oppose the sale today.

Instead of selling the land to another public entity, Halcovage believes the County should hang on to the land and potentially lease it. If the deal does go through despite his objections, Halcovage wanted to be sure the County has easement rights in the event a developer needed to run power lines, for example, through it in the future.

We learned on Wednesday that the deal to sell the land to The Nature Conservancy is not final. In fact, The Nature Conservancy may not even have all the money it needs to complete the deal.

Regardless, Halcovage still thinks it’s a bad idea and Hetherington is headstrong in believing it’s a good deal for Schuylkill County.

On Wednesday, the Commissioners heard from two Hegins Township residents, including Supervisor Leroy Shuey, who urged the board to reconsider the plan to sell the land.

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Shuey said a local coal mine owner would be interested in part of the land. Another resident, Dave Williams, said many people in that area of Schuylkill County still rely on coal for home heating fuel. Selling this land could leave them in the cold because current active mines in that area are drying up.

Part of the reason Hetherington said selling the land was a good idea is because it couldn’t be mined since it drains into the Lebanon Reservoir.

Williams said Wednesday that’s simply not true. In fact, one of the parcels doesn’t drain into the reservoir and it does contain mineable coal.

After hearing opinions that suggest the County should hang on to the land, Halcovage once again called for a motion to appear on a meeting Agenda next week that would have the pending sale with The Nature Conservancy rescinded.

“There’s no reason that we have to sell the land,” he said. “We don’t need to sell this land. We can lease this land.”

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Hetherington countered by saying that he’s “not against coal mining” and that if the deal fell through with The Nature Conservancy, there’s a chance it could go back on the market.

“I understand the concerns about coal mining,” he said. “There are many other parcels in the County (to mine).”

But, in the meantime, he said the County “won’t go back on our word” to sell the land as it has already agreed to do.

“I made a commitment and I don’t want to go back on my word,” Boots added.


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