Burrell Township Resolves Tax Issue
BLACK LICK--Burrell Township's supervisors resolved one pressing tax-related issue Wednesday but deferred a final answer regarding another that has been debated for some time.
Supervisors Floyd Hill, Les Henry and Tony Distefano agreed on an applicant for the township's vacant tax collector job.
Then they decided to take more time to consider a plea for revival of a property tax abatement program.
Brenda Pizer of 586 Marshall Heights Road, Blairsville, was appointed to a two-year stint as tax collector.
She replaces Rita Stipcak, an incumbent appointee who decided not to accept the full four-year term she was elected to in November.
One of two runners-up to Stipcak in last spring's Democratic primary, Pizer was among eight who applied for the appointment.
The tax collector slot will be up for grabs again in the 2003 municipal election.
Pizer resigned from the post of township assessor, which she'd held for a year.
Applications from those wishing to take over the assessor role will be accepted at the township office until March 19--a day prior to the next supervisors' meeting.
"I'm looking forward to serving the community," said Pizer. "I'm really excited."
Pizer will have to prepare quickly for her new job, with tax season getting under way. "Monday, I'll pick up my tax records. Then I'll get the tax bills sent out and I'll be open immediately."
She said she will operate her tax office from her home, where she also runs an insurance agency.
She may be reached at 724-248-9192.
While not ready to set specific office hours, Pizer said she intends to be open a half day on Saturday.
She also will do business some mornings, for elderly taxpayers, and at least one evening a week, for those with day jobs.
Pizer also is a member of the Burrell Township Mine Watchdogs Group, which is concerned about truck traffic from the proposed new Palmerton coal mine.
After a nearly two-year battle, she obtained a settlement for mine subsidence losses at her family's property--attributed to another local coal facility, the Burrell Mine.
In the interim, she and her husband moved their house to an unaffected portion of their property.
TAX ACT ARGUED
Also Wednesday, the supervisors heard arguments for reenactment of a property tax abatement ordinance from representatives of Tri-Star Motors auto dealership, which is renovating and planning to develop the former Chestnut Ridge Plaza along Rt. 22.
Burrell's previous board of supervisors--Hill, Distefano and Dick Shirley--decided last year to let the PROSPER (Promoted Rehabilitation of Subsidized Property for Economic Revitalization) ordinance expire in the township.
They indicated Burrell reaped few rewards from the tax abatement program during its previous 15-year life. It is intended as an incentive for job creation and economic development.
In its most recent form, PROSPER offered a five-year abatement of the added real estate taxes levied for new construction or improvements on eligible business properties--including those developed for manufacturing or high tech ventures.
That version, which has been renewed by Indiana County and the Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board, excludes retail development from eligibility.
Tri-Star's Rody Tibbott acknowledged the dealership, as a retail business, likely would not be able to take advantage of PROSPER for its new location--the former Shop 'n Save supermarket at the plaza.
But he said the ordinance would provide a valuable business recruitment tool for Tri-Star as it works to revitalize remaining portions of the 13-acre shopping center.
He added that PROSPER might help other township property owners with their own development plans.
"We want to see something happen out there," said fellow Tri-Star official Kevin Sergent.
"Things are very stagnant. It's going to take something like PROSPER to attract interest."
Tri-Star attorney Heath Long pointed out properties which receive an abatement still would pay taxes based on their existing assessment, prior to the new development. "The tax base doesn't erode."
Indiana County's Chamber of Commerce has remained a steadfast advocate of PROSPER, noting its absence places a community at a disadvantage compared to other areas which offer it to developers.
INCENTIVE NOT NEEDED?
In their decision last year, Distefano and Shirley said, the supervisors concluded the Corporate Campus industrial park at routes 22 and 119 was the township's prime location for the types of businesses targeted by PROSPER.
PROSPER is not needed as an incentive there, they note, since the industrial park is included in a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone, which offers more extensive tax breaks.
As Wednesday's debate concluded, Distefano said, "My opinion hasn't changed on what we've done with the PROSPER ordinance."
Henry, who was not involved in the earlier decision on PROSPER, said he needed to learn more about the program's history.
"We have to do something to pick our area up, but we have to do it in the right way," he said.
Eventually, all three supervisors agreed to table the issue.
At the next township meeting, set for March 20, Hill told the developers, "You'll be able to tell whether we're going to change or not."
SEWER PLANS OKAYED
Burrell received word that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved initial plans for a Phase II sewer line extension to 25 households in Palmerton.
But additional state permits must be obtained by project planners, including one for a new pump station.
Bankson Engineers, which is a consultant for the Blairsville Municipal Authority, reported the authority is applying to DEP for a water allocation permit.
BMA wants to supplement its existing wells and reservoir by drawing water from the Conemaugh River for treatment at its plant in Hillside.
An amended permit also is being sought for the water plant.
Also, the supervisors heard a resident's complaint that Ridge Avenue has been overdue for tar and chipping since a sewer was installed there three years ago.
PARK BOARD VACANCY
A vacancy remains to be filled on the Burrell Township Park Board, which has announced June 10 as the tentative opening date for the township parks and Aug. 23 as the projected closing date.
Also, an assistant is needed to lead children's activities at the Burrell Park in Black Lick.
Those interested in applying should contact the park board's Dave Henry at 248-9205 or 248-1212.
Black Lick Fire Department was authorized to close portions of Grant Street and Park Drive adjoining the fire hall between noon and 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
At that time, the department will be conducting a "gun bash" fundraiser.
Bids for purchase of various township materials are to be opened at the March 20 supervisors' meeting.