Act 47 label comes at eventful time for Shamokin
It's a hard sell to suggest that Shamokin's designation as an Act 47 "distressed" city is good news.
And the timing is interesting, too, coming just before the weeklong sesquicentennial celebration that got underway Sunday.
Safe to say for most residents and officials, this week is a case of mixed emotions.
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At the recommendation of state advisors and private financial experts, the city applied for Act 47 and C. Alan Walker, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, agreed it was necessary.
In the short term, the dubious designation is critical because it sets in motion the opportunity for the city to receive a $1.16 million loan - interest free. The money is needed to keep the budget in the black this year and to pay off $811,000 in bills owed from 2013.
And the good news hidden in that bleak financial scenario is that the backlog of bills from 2013 weren't handled as they had been for so many other recent years - rolled over into the next year to be paid while new bills piled up, a practice that simply kicked the growing can down the road. The new process is more painful today, but better for the city long-term.
In addition to the loan, Shamokin, through Act 47, will receive preference for state grant programs and will receive consultations from financial, legal and operations experts. But decision-making otherwise remains in local leaders' hands, and we encourage them to continue on this new path of addressing the problem upfront and with as much transparency as possible.
As Walker said, "Shamokin needs more than a short-term or week-by-week fix from its creditors and obligations; it needs a comprehensive recovery plan that will lay the groundwork for long-term financial solvency."
That local officials and a state secretary have publicly recognized as much is, as they say with any lingering problem, the first step toward a solution.
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Shamokin becomes the 28th municipality to be declared as distressed since 1987, and it is the 21st municipality currently enrolled in the recovery program.
Indeed, Shamokin's problems of high unemployment and a declining tax base, among others, are not unique.
As to the timing of the Act 47 designation so close to the 150th fun, maybe it's appropriate. Maybe it's a weight lifted at just the right time.
Perhaps it's still nothing to celebrate, but what would be the alterative to the Act 47 designation?