Chamber Offers Comments Opposing Bridge Tolling

Chamber president Fred Gaffney expressed the Chamber’s opposition to PennDOT’s plan to implement tolling on the Interstate 80 bridge over Nescopeck Creek at a public hearing last week. As part of the growing statewide No P3 Bridge Tolling coalition, the Chamber is working to prevent excessive burdens on businesses and communities by stopping the plan to begin tolling on nine interstate bridges across Pennsylvania starting next year. The hearing, hosted by PennDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, was held Thursday, May 12th at the Nescopeck Township Social Hall.

While the hearing was specifically to receive comments on the environmental assessment, coalition members oppose the plan generally due to the belief that the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Board exceeded its authority by failing comply with statutory mandates when it approved the initiative prior to identifying specific projects, and that PennDOT and its Secretary lack the authority to identify, evaluate, and approve those projects.

Additionally, as of May 6th, PennDOT executed a pre-development agreement with Bridging Pennsylvania Partners LLC. Coalition members believe it is inappropriate to enter into any such agreements before the public hearing process is completed, and prior to the appropriate Federal authorizations, which could significantly change the scope of projects.

Spot tolling will increase costs for individuals and businesses that must use these bridges, at a time of high inflation and dramatically increasing fuel costs. The Chamber has heard concerns from a number of members about the current challenges with transportation costs.

The route PennDOT has identified for motorists to avoid the toll will increase traffic volume in several municipalities including Nescopeck and Berwick boroughs. The environmental assessment does not address the impacts on air quality, noise, safety, roadways, and businesses in these communities.

The Chamber is urging PennDOT to abandon this spot-tolling plan, and work with the legislature to identify sustainable funding sources that do not cause undue negative impacts to businesses, residents, and communities in and around project areas. “Pennsylvania just realized its most tax revenue in a single month in April at $6.5 billion dollars, $1.8 billion over projections,” said Gaffney. “Additionally, the Commonwealth has significant American Rescue Plan funds and new federal infrastructure funding to more than adequately address these nine most urgent projects. Moving forward with the Major Bridge P3 program is not only inappropriate, but unnecessary based on these facts.”

The environment assessment and other project details are available at www.penndot.pa.gov/i80Nescopeck. Written comments may be submitted through May 27th by mail to: PennDOT District 4, Attn: I-80 Nescopeck Creek Bridges Project, 55 Keystone Industrial Park, Dunmore, PA 18512, email to [email protected], or online at www.penndot.pa.gov/i80Nescopeck.

Premier Real Estate Agency Celebrates Grand Opening with Ribbon-Cutting

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce helped celebrate the grand opening of Premier Real Estate Agency in Danville yesterday with a ribbon-cutting. Located on 1238 Bloom Road in Danville, Premier Real Estate opened its doors for the community.

The evening was filled with excitement and entertainment. DJ Gary Chrisman performed the entertainment for two hours, while Pour Choices Winery held a wine tasting during the event. The grand prize winner won $250 of gift cards to local Danville businesses including: PB&J Bar, Old Forge Brewing Company and Old City Bagel Company.

You can find out more about Premier Real Estate by visiting their official website at www.premierdanville.com. You can also reach them at 570-601-0774 if you have any specific questions.

Member News – May 11, 2022

Bloomsburg University’s Spring Commencement Scheduled for This Weekend 

Bloomsburg University’s Spring Commencement is scheduled to be held this weekend on campus. On Friday night, the graduate students will walk the stage inside the Haas Center for the Arts at 6:00 p.m. Then on Sunday, the undergraduate students will walk the stage at Redman Stadium. At 10:00 a.m. will be the College of Education, College of Liberal Arts, while the Ziegler College of Business, College of Science and Technology students will walk the stage at 3:00 p.m.

The gates open 60 minutes prior to the ceremony. Clear water bottles will be allowed and the clear bag policy will be in effect.


PPL Announces New Price to Compare for Electricity 

PPL Electric Utilities recently completed an energy auction and the new Price to Compare (PTC), effective June 1, will be 12.366 cents/kWh for residential customers (up from 8.941cents/kWh) and 11.695 cents/kWh for small business customers (up from /9.675cents/kWh).  The increase is due to several market conditions that are impacting most sectors of the economy such as the rising cost of energy supply sources, including natural gas, as well as overall inflation and global economic events. A residential customer who is receiving default service – and paying the new price to compare – will see the price of his or her electricity supply increase by about $34 per month. This is based on average use of 1,000 kWh of electricity per month. The average small business customer using the same 1,000 kWh per month will see an increase of about $20.

Over the next month, PPL will be reaching out directly to customers who are receiving default supply to let them know this price increase will impact their bills. Their goal is to give customers time to prepare and share steps they can take to lessen the impact.  Customers are reminded that PPL doesn’t own the power plants where the energy is generated and encourages them to shop for an electricity supplier. PPL offers numerous bill assistance programs and tools available to help customers who are having trouble keeping up with their electric bills, including:

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — A federal program that provides grants to households to help with home energy bills or to pay off past-due balances. LIHEAP applications are being accepted through May 20, 2022.
  • OnTrack payment plan — A program that makes managing energy bills easier with lower fixed monthly payments and debt forgiveness for qualifying customers.
  • Operation HELP — A fuel fund supported by donations from PPL Electric Utilities employees and customers that provides grants to help customers with their energy bills.
  • WRAP — A program that offers free energy-efficiency products, such as LED bulbs, to customers.
  • Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) — A federal program that helps renters affected by financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic with free money to cover rent, utility bills, fees, and past-due balances.
  • All customers, regardless of income, can also take advantage of other bill help services, including budget billing or choosing a payment due date that works for their budget.

To help customers through this inflationary period, the PPL Foundation is donating $500,000 to Operation HELP. Operation HELP provides grants to help eligible customers pay their heating bills. This contribution will supplement the more than $1 million that our company, employees, and customers donate each year to support Operation HELP.

(Added by The Chamber of Commerce: Chamber members are reminded that World Kinect Energy Services can assist members in finding the most cost-effective solutions for electricity and natural gas supply. There is no cost or obligation to have World Kinect research options for your organization. Click here for more details.)

State Rep Candidates Share Views at Forum

Republican voters in Columbia County will have four choices for State Representative on the May 17th primary ballot, while registered Democrats will see only one name. All five registered candidates for the 109th House District shared their views on a variety of issues at a candidate forum, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, May 4th at Central Columbia High School. The event was streamed live on the Chamber’s YouTube channel and the recording is available here.

Democrat Edward Giannattasio and Republicans Aaron Kline, Robert Leadbeter, Joseph Martin, and Janine Penman each were provided two minutes to respond to questions presented by Fred Gaffney, Chamber president. Topics included PennDOT’s plan to begin tolling interstate bridges, workforce, minimum wage, Pennsylvania’s economy, and election integrity. Audience questions were presented on education funding and COVID-related government orders. All five of the candidates were not supportive of the tolling plan, which is being opposed by the Chamber as part of the No P3 Bridge Tolling Coalition. Candidates were also provided two minutes each for closing remarks.

The Chamber thanks Central Columbia High School Principal Adam Comstock for hosting the event, and Doug Farley, Communications Technology Teacher, and several of his students for streaming the video.

Nineteen Complete Management & Leadership Program

On Tuesday, May 3rd, nineteen individuals working at member businesses completed the Management & Leadership Certificate Program. Offered in partnership by Bloomsburg University and the Chamber of Commerce, the program was created to help existing employees develop basic management and team leadership skills. Over 120 people have now completed the program over four years.

Rick Flynn and Tina Welch, Welch Performance Consulting, facilitate the five-session program. Topics include: the role of the supervisor and effective communication/listening, understanding what motivates employees and change management, coaching and performance management, navigating a multigenerational and diverse workforce, and conflict management. Upon completion, the participants receive a certificate from Bloomsburg University.

Dates for the Fall offering of the program will be released next month.