Lebanon County is receiving a $980,666 grant to construct a pipeline running from Route 501 to Eastern Lebanon County (ELCO) School District.

“This is an incredible investment that will reduce emissions, help maintain low taxes for the local community, and keep our schools warm in the coming winter,” said State Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102) in a press release announcing the grant. “It’s a well-known fact that pipelines are the safest mode of distribution for natural gas and I applaud the CFA for helping Lebanon County update its infrastructure.”

The grant is financed by the Commonwealth Financing Authority Pipeline Investment Program, which provides grants to help construct natural gas distribution lines.

The Pipeline Investment Program evaluates grant applications based on jobs created, economic development of the region, local support, and other criteria.

The program requires recipients to match grant funds, so the school district is also contributing $980,666 for the pipeline’s construction.

The initial estimated cost for the project was around $1 million, but this increased significantly so that the pipeline’s infrastructure could accommodate capacity at ELCO high and middle schools.

When the cost rose, ELCO Business Manager Michael Miller worked with representatives from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to apply for the grant.

Miller was assisted in crafting the application by ELCO Director of Buildings and Grounds Doug Dresch, Steckbeck Engineering, K & W Engineering, Reynolds, INC, and UGI, INC.

The district applied for the grant directly (without direct collaboration with the local municipality), as school districts are eligible applicants.

The 11,000 foot extension, constructed by natural gas/electric power distribution company UGI, will service seven small businesses and several properties, in addition to the ELCO campus.

ELCO’s 180,000-square-foot high school and 137,400-square-foot middle school are mostly heated by oil boilers, with propane heat used in parts of the high school.

The school plans to install high efficiency natural gas boilers and unit heaters in the place of oil-fired hot water boilers and propane heaters. The district expects to save $60K-$80K annually from this switch.

Since the grant will cut down project costs for the pipeline, ELCO will have more funds available to complete other projects, according to ELCO Superintendent Julia Vicente.

“The District is grateful that the Commonwealth Financing Authority / Department of Community and Economic Development decided to support our grant application and purpose of the project,” said Vicente. “We are exceptionally pleased by the support for our District and community through the awarded funds, which will allow us to make significant infrastructure improvements while remaining fiscally prudent.”

Emily Bixler was born and raised in Lebanon and now reports on local government. In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and going for hikes.


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