Some Yorkers may skirt $5 bridge-repair fee

Greg Gross
  • Some York County residents near borders with other counties might not be hit with the $5 fee.
  • The fee is expected to generate about $2 million in revenue that will be used to fund bridge repair work.

Some York County residents who have side-stepped required emissions inspections on their vehicles for years also might avoid the $5 localuse fee commissioners recently approved to fund bridge repairs.

The residents live along the county's borders and happen to have out-of-county mailing addresses, giving the state, which will collect the fee, the impression the residents don't live in York County.

Charles Swartzbaugh, 65, of Conewago Township, has family members who live in Paradise Township in the western part of York County but have an Abbottstown, Adams County, mailing address.

Because of that mailing address, his family members and other residents don't have emissions inspections done on their vehicles because the state believes they live in Adams County, where the tests aren't required. Those residents might be overlooked when the bridge fee is imposed starting in October, since Adams doesn't impose it, Swartzbaugh said

"I don't have a problem with paying the $5. But you've got to make it fair," he said.

Christine Mentzer, secretary of Paradise Township, confirmed some township residents with Adams County mailing addresses don't have the emissions inspections done. She estimated that about half the township has either an Abbottstown or East Berlin mailing address. Both of those boroughs are in Adams County.

County commissioners approved the use fee last week. An estimated $2 million in annual revenue will be used to maintain and repair the 95 county-owned bridges.

Mailing address: The mailing address issue stems from the state Department of Transportation's use of U.S. Postal Service data when determining who should be charged the $5 fee or have emission tests done. The data doesn't differentiate between mailing addresses and physical addresses.

Part of Paradise Township is serviced by the Abbotstown post office, giving the impression that that section of the township is in Adams County, said Alexis Campbell, a spokeswoman for PennDOT.

York County bridge No. 123, which stands between North Codorus and Springfield townships over the south branch of Codorus Creek, is shown Tuesday, May 17, 2016. The bridge was built in 1910.  Dawn J. Sagert photo

Will Clark, the York County Planning Commission's chief of transportation planning, said the issue was recently brought to the attention of county officials.

"These things will be corrected as soon as possible," he said.

Felicia Dell, director of the commission, said she's reached out to PennDOT to see if it will work with the county's tax assessment office to make sure the fee is collected from all York County residents.

It falls on the state to ensure that everyone with vehicles registered in a county that imposes the fee is charged, Campbell said.

"We're checking into that to make sure they have the right county," she said.

PennDOT officials also are expected to look into the issue of some residents skirting the emissions-testing requirements, Campbell said.

Elsewhere: The cross-county mailing addresses are also common in Fairview Township in northern York County, where 60 percent of residents have mailing addresses in either New Cumberland, Camp Hill or Mechanicsburg — all of which are in Cumberland County, said Don Martin III, the township manager.

Cumberland County imposed its $5 use fee last year, and Martin said it's possible some township residents with that county's mailing address might have paid the fee without knowing it.

Clark pointed out that some Adams County residents who have Hanover, York County, mailing addresses could inadvertently be charged the fee.

A similar issue cropped up in Shippensburg, which straddles Cumberland and Franklin counties, after Cumberland passed a use fee, said BarbaraSue Hershey, administrative coordinator with the Cumberland County Planning Commission.

Cumberland's tax assessment had to verify addresses of its residents to make sure they are charged the fee while residents on the Franklin County side of the border aren't, she said.

York County Commissioner Doug Hoke said the issue of York County residents with out-of-county mailing addresses wasn't brought up in the weeks before commissioners approved the fee.

"I wish I would have known. I would have asked about it myself," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ggrossyd.