DCED approves Local Share project list as presented by county commissioners

Barbara Miller
Observer Reporter

The chief of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority reported to the county commissioners Wednesday the state Department of Community and Economic Development approved $6.7 million worth of projects to be financed by Local Share Account casino gambling revenues.

The question redevelopment authority Executive Director William McGowan was unable to answer what might happen to the local share in the future.

The Washington County committee reviewing requests for the Local Share Account makes recommendations to the county commissioners, who, if they concur, forward a list of proposed projects to the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The department recently approved Washington County’s list of 2017 proposed projects unchanged.

The committee recommended $6.7 million worth of community improvement projects, ranging from a ramp to make the Beth-Center Senior Citizen Center accessible to the disabled, to $500,000 for a sewer project at Washington County Airport in South Franklin Township. Economic development and job training also figure in the mix.

The state Legislature, however, will be taking a hard look at gaming revenue, and changes could be afoot.

“We’ll be debating gambling when we go back next Monday” to Harrisburg, said state Rep. Rick Saccone, who was in Washington Wednesday as the county drug court was receiving its accreditation from the state judicial administrative office. Proposals include the expansion of internet gambling and extending gambling to airport kiosks.

The result very well could be “a bigger cut for the counties who don’t have casinos in them,” said Saccone, whose two-county district includes municipalities that receive funding from Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino or Washington’s Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Saccone said he sees some problems with the state budget’s dependence on gambling, liquor and cigarettes to provide revenue.

“We continue to fund our government on our vices,” Saccone said. “How far do you go with people’s vices? I just don’t think it’s good policy.”

The Meadows initiated slot-machine gambling in June 2007, and the Local Share Account opened its competitive process for evaluating both governmental and nongovernmental projects the same year. The process in fourth-class counties like Washington requires state oversight and final approval from DCED.

“We’ll have our ears to the ground to see how the bills go through the House and Senate,” McGowen said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to move ahead and keep going.”

McGowen’s agency administers the Local Share Account program on behalf of the county commissioners.