Reading Anthracite rep confirms interest in partnering with AOAA
COAL TOWNSHIP - The newly hired security manager for Reading Anthracite says the coal company may be interested in using its land to expand the developing Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area.
"Reading Anthracite is strongly considering joining a partnership with AOAA," Richard Morgan said during Tuesday's workshop meeting of Coal Township Commissioners. "If they jump on board it's really going to bolster that park."
"Reading Anthracite does not want to compete with AOAA; they want to be a partner," he said.
Morgan also extended a company offer to make purchases of emergency services equipment on behalf of Coal Township to offset the burden of providing police, fire and medical coverage on its land. That same offer was made to Zerbe Township on Monday.
AOAA is being developed on 6,500 acres on county-owned forest and coal lands in Coal, East Cameron, Mount Carmel, West Cameron and Zerbe townships. The main entrance is planned for a spot above Burnside in Coal Township.
Reading Anthracite is one of 13 property owners adjoined to AOAA land who were contacted and to whom the authority proposed managing recreational activities on their land, Jim Backes, authority chairman, said when contacted for comment after Tuesday's commissioners meeting.
Coal company representatives met in executive session with the authority on March 5 to discuss a potential land use arrangement, for which terms are still being negotiated.
"We had a very positive meeting but we're waiting for their answer," Backes said.
Two other land owners have also pledged to move forward with negotiations on land use.
The authority would only be interested in land for which there were no active mining permits, he said, referring to land near the "whaleback" rock formation in the Third Patch of Coal Township and land in Zerbe Township. There's also a question of land in Mount Carmel Township, but that remains to be determined.
Coal Hill in Trevorton wouldn't be included, he said, and the coal company is considering fully restricting access to the site.
Backes wasn't sure how many acres Reading Anthracite owns in Northumberland County.
Coal Township concerns
Morgan met Tuesday with Coal Township Commissioners to discuss any concerns over emergencies and crime related to off-road vehicle enthusiasts who access coal company land.
Craig Fetterman, president of the board of commissioners, said commissioners' main concern is offsetting the expense of having township police, fire and medical services respond to incidents on Reading Anthracite-owned land.
Commissioner George Zalar added, "When we have all our apparatus and patrols on the mountain, that leaves our area exposed."
The township had considered pursuing ordinance to recoup some of the permit money through a fee assessed on anyone selling access permits to their land. The commissioners pulled the plug on the proposal when Reading Anthracite engaged them in dialogue.
Morgan, a recently retired Pennsylvania State Trooper, said he understood the concerns raised over both cost and coverage. He proposed partnering with township police for occasional crackdowns on trespassers that would boost revenue through fines.
Police Chief William Carpenter declined to discuss security tactics in public. He and Morgan agreed to meet in private at a future date to further discussion.
Morgan encouraged commissioners to submit requests to the Pottsville-based firm for purchases of emergency services equipment.
"If you want to put a request in, we may help with purchases," he told the Coal Township officials.
Reading Anthracite purchased Tasers for Schuylkill County's Mahanoy Township Police Department, and offered to reimburse Zerbe Township for its approximate $5,200 purchase of a speed detection system for its police force.
The firm currently sells recreational access permits to its property for $125 apiece. The permits already sold for this year will be honored, he said.