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Schuylkill County News

Schuylkill Commissioners Set to Vote on Farmland Preservation Money

This would be the third year in a row approving this extra money.

Schuylkill County Commissioners will vote Wednesday on whether to approve an extra $200K for farmland preservation.

This would be the third year in a row where the Commissioners approved more than a quarter-million dollars for this initiative.

Normally, if they had at all, the Commissioners would contribute $50,000 annually to the effort.

However, they have 5x’d that money in recent years by using COVID relief funds.

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In supporting this in the past, Commissioner Boots Hetherington, who owns a Union Township farm and has seen a benefit from the added funds, said there were nearly 80 Schuylkill County farms on a waitlist for preservation money.

He has said in the past that $50,000 is needed typically to preserve just one farm.

When a farm gets this money, they’re saying the land will forever be farmland and can’t be developed for any other purpose. The farmer receives $2,500 per acre of preserved land.

According to the agenda for the Jan. 17 Work Session meeting, the Commissioners will vote on whether to approve $200,000 for farmland preservation as part of a supplemental budget appropriation.

That will be one of just a handful of votes to be taken on Wednesday.

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You can see the full meeting agenda below, including the County’s Personnel Action Report (PAR), the Treasurer’s Report from December 2023, and a repository list of properties to approve for sale.

Commissioners are meeting at 10 a.m. at Schuylkill County Courthouse in Pottsville. The meeting audio is available through Zoom. We’ll have coverage (including video) after the meeting on Wednesday …

Agenda

1-17-24-Agenda

PAR

1-17-24-PAR

Treasurer’s Report – December 2023

Dec-2023-Treasurers-Report

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Repository Sales List

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Tom

    January 18, 2024 at 11:48 am

    Seems odd that there is extra money sitting around that even more can be pumped into farmland preservation. Was this even an allowable use of COVID funds? Feel bad for the small businesses, fire companies, etc…who didn’t receive any support. I wonder how much county, state, federal $$ Boots has garnered for his farm.

    • Canary Commenter

      January 19, 2024 at 8:38 am

      Well, that’s a good argument. The broadband issue should have been and could have been addressed back in 2020 with the CARES Act money. There was a much simpler solution that could have gotten a lot of people in Schuylkill County who have access to terrible internet service a major upgrade. But the Commissioners buried their head in the sand and now they’re stuck waiting (and they’ll be waiting a VERY LONG time) for this so-called Task Force to address it. BTW, where Boots lives, they can only get DSL and 4G connections.

      As for this being allowed … we’ve reviewed the rules on spending the COVID money and the definition of the term “lost revenue” is so loose and ambiguous that yes, this would be allowed. Does it make it right? That’s another story. Also, right now, and this is something that somehow got edited out of the article here, the money is first coming from the General Fund. When they shuffle money around later this year, they’re likely going to say it came from Rescue Plan money (that’s how they get the “lost revenue”).

      Government helping government. Blech!

  2. Tom

    January 19, 2024 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks, Canary, for the information. I watched the meeting video you posted and they make a big deal of the money going to Boots and his farm is from STATE funds and not from the County. But… couldn’t those State funds have gone to one of those 80+ farms still on the wait list, trying to get any assistance whatsoever? Prime example of a commissioner using his position to benefit none other than himself!

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