Verona continues to work on revitalizing business district

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Verona officials continue to take steps toward revitalization of the borough business district, and it's going to be a busy couple of months for the project.

On Tuesday, borough council hired Franco Electric to install lighting along Allegheny River Boulevard for close to $240,000. Officials received four contract bids for the project.

For several years, members of the Verona Business District Advisory Committee and the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments (COG) have been working on infrastructure and landscaping improvement plans in the borough's business district.

The plan includes 46 street lights and landscaping along Allegheny River Boulevard; Center, South and East Railroad avenues; and James Street.

The first phase of the project calls for improvements on the boulevard.

The council of governments board approve the contract.

Borough engineer Larry Seiler said he doesn't think much work on the project will occur this year.

Members of the business district committee plan to pay for the lighting improvements with two years' worth of federal Community Development Block Grant funds obtained from Allegheny County, which amount to more than $290,000. The borough also must match a portion of the grant and contribute about $47,000 in cash or in-kind services.

Those funds most likely would cover about 27 street lights on Allegheny River Boulevard, Seiler said.

“The borough is very fortunate to have almost $300,000 in grant money for this project,” he said.

To raise money for its contribution, the borough has teamed up with Rivertowne Inn owner Lisa Fykes to host a Zombie Bar Crawl fundraiser on Oct. 12.

Officials are seeking donations and sponsorships for the event.

Councilwoman Rhoda Gemellas-Worf urged members of the community to support the cause.

Plans for trees also are under way.

Bridget Seery, member of the business district committee and borough's Shade Tree Commission, said she's working with TreeVitalize — a public-private partnership that helps local governments protect and restore urban trees — to plant 17 trees along East Railroad, South and Center avenues. TreeVitalize is providing the trees.

Volunteers will be needed to plant the trees on Nov. 2.

The business district committee also teamed with TreeVitalize this spring to plant 17 trees along Allegheny River Boulevard.

Heidi Dezayas is a freelance writer.

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