Bristol Borough >> Four Lower Bucks County boroughs are now eligible for a share of the gaming revenues being generated by Parx Casino in nearby Bensalem Township.
Legislation authored by State Senator Robert Tomlinson deals Bristol Borough, Langhorne Borough, Penndel Borough and Langhorne Manor Borough into the mix of municipalities who are qualified for casino grants for projects like roads and emergency services.
Up until the new legislation became law, only the host municipality - Bensalem - and contiguous municipalities - Bristol Township, Middletown Township, Lower Southampton and Hulmeville Borough - were eligible to submit grant applications to the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority (BCRDA) for the annual take of $3.5 million.
Under the expanded law, eligible municipalities must be contiguous - or surrounded by - a municipality that is contiguous to the host municipality.
Bob White, the executive director of the BCRDA which administers the grant program, delivered the good news to the Bristol Borough at Monday night’s Council meeting.
“We always called you guys the donut hole,” said White, referencing the fact that the boroughs were surrounded by eligible municipalities, but were not eligible for the funds themselves because they were not contiguous. “We fought for it. We battled for it.”
On several occasions in the past, Bristol Borough has been successful in obtaining gaming funds for its new public works building and upgraded police radios. In both cases, their requests were sponsored by either Bucks County or Hulmeville Borough.
“With the change, the boroughs are automatically eligible,” said White. “And you should now start thinking about what you want to use this new found money for.”
White said the boroughs are now qualified to compete for grants on an annual basis for projects involving human services, infrastructure improvements, facilities, emergency services and health and public safety projects.
With annual requests from the qualifying municipalities ranging between $7 million and $8 million, White is encouraging municipalities to think hard about what they would like to fund before submitting an application.
“You’re going to get the chance to come in and make a presentation to the board personally. And then at that meeting we’re going to ask you to prioritize,” said White.
The RDA director said the money must be spent in the year that it is allocated, although he said a 90 day extension is available at the end of the year in certain cases.
Past funding has supported projects like the Towns Against Graffiti (TAG), road improvements, fire companies, rescue squads, police cars, public works vehicles, municipal building projects and additions, signalization, intersection improvements and more. “It’s all about things that are impacted by gaming,” said White.
“Communities that this money is going to would have spent the dollars we’re taking about through their general funds or you just wouldn’t have it,” said White, who called the grant program a form of tax relief.
Over the past decade, White said gaming revenues have provided $37 million for projects in the six communities.
“I’d personally like to thank Senator Tomlinson for bringing this about 10 or 15 years ago and particularly taking it to the state last year and filling in the donut holes,” said White.
Bristol Borough Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe said throughout the grant process “the Borough always felt we belonged” in the pool of eligible municipalities. “Through numerous meetings with Senator Tomlinson he agreed. I know he worked very hard to make this happen.
“It’s a really big thing” for the Borough, continued DiGuiseppe. “I don’t think people realize how important where we can just submit our application without someone sponsoring us. I can’t thank Senator Tomlinson enough for what he’s done for the Borough ... And with gaming changing to include sports betting this funding can grow dramatically.”