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Millvale, Castle Shannon 2014 Banner Communities designation

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Millvale is small — with a population of 3,744 as of the 2010 census — but it doesn't let its size limit what it can offer residents, its manager said.

In the past year, the borough started a new website, a quarterly newsletter and a junior council program, and it continued educational training for elected officials, borough Manager Amy Rockwell said.

Those initiatives helped the borough become one of 31 municipalities designated last week as 2014 Banner Communities by the Allegheny League of Municipalities and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The program, in its second year, recognizes towns that implement best practices in operations and collaborate with residents, the county said.

Richard Hadley, executive director of the Allegheny League of Municipalities, said he modeled the program after one in Maryland.

“The idea is to … recognize those communities for the good work they do. And allow them by this designation to communicate back to their residents that they are recognized as a Banner Community, as one that is looking out for the interests of their residents,” he said.

Millvale and Castle Shannon are among 13 communities that received the honor for the first time. Eighteen communities, including Wilkins and Richland, had been recognized before.

Municipalities must meet a variety of requirements to be considered. They include participating in at least one shared municipal service, establishing newsletters or websites, and participating in training programs for leaders through the league or other organizations.

Effective communication with constituents is key to government agencies functioning effectively, officials said.

“We are a small, tight-knit community. I think that in the past we've relied on word of mouth just to get information out and we're just trying to streamline what we're distributing,” Rockwell said of Millvale.

Castle Shannon is small, too, but it works collaboratively with partners, such as the Castle Shannon Revitalization Corp., on initiatives that maximize benefits for residents, said Michael Warhold, vice president of the borough council.

“We're honored to be recognized by Allegheny County. We're a smaller community … and we fly under the radar,” said Warhold, who is president of the revitalization corporation.

All five of Wilkins' commissioners, its manager and its property maintenance officer continually attend training at the Local Government Academy, which helps them stay abreast of legislative changes and other public sector issues, Manager Rebecca Bradley said.

“If you don't attend the training classes, you really don't get a good handle on (what's going on). And it's also a good way to network,” she said.

Government often cast in a bad light, so the Banner Communities program is a welcome acknowledgement of the productive, necessary work it does, especially by volunteers who serve on zoning hearing boards, planning commissions and other boards, said Dean Bastianini, Richland's manager.

“I think we do these things routinely. Sometimes we don't even give them a second thought,” he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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