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Tax credit funds set to beautify City of Jeannette

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Jack Brown, of Westmoreland Community Action, talked to Jeannette Business Association members this month about a tax credit program that could benefit the city. Submitted

Beautification is coming to the City of Jeannette.

Westmoreland Community Action (WCA), a nonprofit agency in Greensburg, has worked with both the Elliott Company and First Niagara Bank to participate in the state Department of Community Economic Development's Neighborhood Partnership Program. The program, a five-year tax credit initiative, will enable the Jeannette community to use tax credit funds for beautification projects within city limits.

This is a commonwealth tax credit program, which allows businesses to pay a lesser than normal amount of taxes while donating approximately 80 cents on every dollar of tax money owed for community development projects. Those funds, with the assistance of a local board, would be overseen by WCA. The tax credits generated by Elliott Company and First Niagara bank will equal $150,000 for the next five years.

Jack Brown, WCA director of community services, met with members of the Jeannette Business Association this month to discuss this program and to educate local business owners on the potential projects.

Next year, WCA could ask another business to participate and extend the project to six years.

“The Jeannette NPP Project is a tremendous way for businesses and corporations to keep their tax dollars locally while deciding how to utilize these funds to assist the Jeannette community. I believe these partnerships by all involved is a unique way to develop true community planning,” said WCA director and CEO Tay Waltenbaugh.

WCA, formerly known as Westmoreland Human Opportunities (WHO) has a long history in Jeannette where the agency has been the driving force behind the South Sixth Street Revitalization Project and the lead agency for the Head Start Program, in addition to being the county's official community action agency.

During the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, he turned his focus to poverty in the United States and enacted the Economic Opportunity Act which created programs such as Head Start, work study and food stamps. As part of that legislation, it was determined that every county in the United States must have at least one agency that was designated as a local Community Action Agency, whose mission was to oversee these programs and work toward ending poverty.

Over the years, the mission of Community Action Agencies has stayed the same, but with changing trends, new research on poverty and a lack of readily available government funding, WCA has began to diversify by looking at community development and business opportunities for struggling communities.

This process is meant to benefit all residents and to assist communities in becoming sustainable, more livable and business friendly, in an effort to elevate the quality of life.

The Community Board seated to assist WCA includes Waltenbaugh, Brown, Brian Lapp, vice-president of Elliott Company, Chuck Peterson, community development officer at First Niagara Bank, Jason Rigone, of Westmoreland Industrial Development Corporation, Jeffrey Diehl, chief financial officer of WCA, Clyde Bittner, Jeannette resident-at-large, Kim Knoll, vice-president at First Niagara Bank, Diana Reitz, Jeannette community development coordinator, and Mayor Robert Carter.

Some proposed projects include upgrading some local parks and playgrounds including reopening the tot-lot on Third Street and resurfacing the tennis courts, in addition to new signage for all entrances to the City of Jeannette, beautification for all entrances to the city and demolition money to be used as needed in completing this project.

There has also been discussion on an archway being placed at one of the entrances (to be determined) into the city and the possibility of erecting an amphitheater.

Waltenbaugh and Brown have also taken the time to look at old photographs of Jeannette and would like to see a downtown facade project that could bring back a nostalgic “striped-awning look” of the past.

“I am excited about it,” said Clyde Bittner, regarding his seat on the board of this initiative. “We are ready to change Jeannette history and we are on the move. It has been a dream of mine to be a part of my community and involved with positive change.”

Margie Stanislaw is a freelance writer.