The Act 47 Municipal Financial Recovery Act is not lightly imposed by DCED.
Act 47 is a serious and arduous financial recovery program that no PA community aspires to enter and few ever exit.
In 2004, Plymouth Township had no good options. Its debt burden was nearly three times its operating budget, unpaid bills were piling up and the entire police department was furloughed because the Township was out of money.
Poor leadership decisions in the aftermath of the flood of 1996 is where Plymouth Township’s fiscal crisis began. Leaders, at that time, overspent and overextended resources that ultimately sank the Township budget into a perpetual cycle of debt.
As Plymouth Township’s budget problems grew, a group of new leaders took charge. Supervisors Conrad, Brennan, Manley, Yudichak and Katurak, immediately sought assistance from the state, made tough decisions and put Plymouth Township on the road to recovery.
The Township hired a professional manager, Steve Grzymski, and implemented the Supervisors’ leadership plan. Steve Grzymski, quiet and unassuming, has been an exceptional steward of the Act 47 program with the assistance of the recovery manager – the NEPA Alliance.
Act 47 allowed Plymouth Township to reform budget operations, improve governance and invest in the delivery of municipal services.
With an Act 47 recovery plan in place Plymouth Township slowly, but methodically paid down its debt and instituted new fiscal policies to ensure a balanced budget.
In addition, Plymouth Township sought governance changes that transitioned them to a home rule charter form of government and enabled them to raise revenue through an EIT rather than local property taxes. The public, with 83% voting in support, overwhelmingly approved the new governance plan.
Despite early progress in Act 47, Plymouth Township faced many setbacks. A fire hit its public works garage, floods hit in 2004, 2005, 2006, and in 2011 the Coal Street Flood and Tropical Storm Lee hit Plymouth Township.
After twelve years, and just about every challenge you can imagine, Plymouth Township is exiting the Act 47 program stronger than ever before because its leaders never gave up on the good people of our community – a community I proudly call home.
I’ve always been, and I always will be Township Proud.
Two projects illustrate perfectly the resilience of Plymouth Township.
I grew up in the shadow of the Avondale Mine. I knew of its glory, its tragedy and its legacy of environmental degradation. Facing its own fiscal challenges, Plymouth Township was not in a good position to tackle such a large reclamation project.
However, despite being in the Act 47 program, Plymouth forged ahead and partnered with the Earth Conservancy, DEP and our legislative office to secure over $6.6 million in funds to reclaim some of the worst abandon mine lands in Luzerne County. The Avondale Mine Reclamation Project, fittingly, will be completed this year as Plymouth Township completes its historic financial recovery.
The second project, the Coal Street Flood Control Project, demonstrates just how tough and resourceful Plymouth Township can be.
In July of 2011, a unique storm event dumped nearly seven inches of rain in an hour on one section of Plymouth Township in the Coal Creek watershed. The raging waters that poured over the banks of Coal Creek knocked homes off their foundations, destroyed a bridge and tossed cars down Coal Street like they were matchbox toys. The damage was breathtaking.
FEMA and PEMA said the storm did not meet the threshold of a natural disaster, and therefore no funding assistance was available to the Township. Plymouth Township, again, refused to be beaten. The Township teamed up with DEP, the Luzerne Conservation District and our legislative office to secure over $1.3 million dollars to repair the infrastructure and build a new flood control system along Coal Creek.
Plymouth Township is my home. It is where I grew up, it is where I am raising my children. It is where my father, Joe Yudichak, taught me that politics is the art of the possible.
Plymouth Township embodies the very best of small town Pennsylvania where neighbors never give up on neighbors, and where everybody pitches in to make their community a better place to live.
Congratulations to Plymouth Township, DCED and the NEPA Alliance for your effective implementation of the Act 47 program.
Finally, one last note of thanks, Thank you to the Board of Supervisors, the Township Manager, the Township workers and the taxpayers of Plymouth Township who never gave up on our proud community.