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Ligonier Township supervisors discuss 2014 goals

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

As the Ligonier Township supervisors enter 2014 with two new faces, improving communication within all township departments and boards is a common goal shared by all.

Newly elected supervisors Paul Knupp, 55, and Scott Matson, 46, and returning Supervisor Tim Komar, 53, agree that better communication and transparency will be a vital component of moving forward and regaining residents' trust in the aftermath of allegations regarding former supervisor Keith Whipkey and zoning officer Cynthia Angelo that surfaced this summer.

The officials' other goals for the new year include being fiscally responsible, holding back on tax increases, maintaining the safety of the roads and continuing to forge a good working relationship with the township police department.

Knupp and Matson said they hope to continue looking into hiring a township manager who could help with day-to-day operations, oversight within the township building and exploration of grant opportunities.

Komar said he agrees a professional manager could prove beneficial to the township, but he prefers waiting until two additional supervisors are seated in 2015 to determine what direction should be taken.

He said he has of list of residents who requested to be on a committee to look into the feasibility of a township manager.

“We didn't do anything with it yet because of everything else going on,” he said. “Since we know we're coming in with two new supervisors (in 2014), it would have been irresponsible for me to have pushed by to get a manager prior to (Knupp and Matson) coming in. With two interim supervisors it would have been irresponsible to move forward with that.”

In reference to zoning and planning, Komar said Foxley Farm is “a prime example” of how the township land use ordinance needs to be updated, adding that he would like to see the property “used to some extent.”

In October, the Ligonier Township planning commission voted unanimously to abandon a proposed zoning ordinance related to Foxley Farm that stemmed from a request from owners PJ and Maggie Nied to host weddings and events on their property.

“I think we have to look at our land use ordinance with an open mind and look at where we want to be,” Komar said.

Knupp and Matson said they want to educate themselves more on the Foxley Farm matter.

Matson said he would like to see improvements in the zoning department, such as treating all residents fairly and putting a filing system in place for Zoning Officer Shelly Kaltenbaugh,

Komar believes the zoning office is on the right track with the addition of Kaltenbaugh.

“I believe if everyone is treated the same under the same set of rules, and if the rules are updated to promote growth and development in a respectable way... a lot of problems will go away themselves,” he said.

Knupp and Komar would like to opt back into a program for the township to administer the Uniform Construction Code enforcement locally, a topic broached by supervisors' Dec. 10 meeting. The supervisors previously opted out of the program, but at the meeting, Kaltenbaugh explained the benefits of the township using its own employees or certified agencies to enforce the code, such as providing more control and generating revenue for the township through permit fees. Matson said he would like to do some more research on it before deciding if he agrees with opting back into it.

Regarding the possibility of conducting a forensic audit of Whipkey and Angelo's computers, Knupp said he wants to get through the first phase of the investigation before spending the money to delve into a forensic audit.

“We need some input from our district attorney,” he said.

Matson said he agrees with Knupp, but he believes, based on conversations with residents, that many would like to see a forensic audit performed.

Komar said he wants to wait to hear recommendations from the DA's office before spending money on a forensic audit. He said if county detectives conclude there is not enough evidence to file criminal charges and additional investigation is necessary, a forensic audit would be warranted.

Knupp also cited as a priority building rapport with state Rep. Mike Reese, R-Mt. Pleasant Township, state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield and the county commissioners. He would like to explore the reopening of Laurel Mountain Ski Resort to generate tax revenue.

He said he would like to hold work sessions with the members of all township departments and boards twice a year to discuss accomplishments, as well as invite representatives from the fire department to attend supervisors meeting to provide updates. He also hopes to keep finances in check and show residents the supervisors can work together.

Matson wants to focus on getting all township boards to work together and communicate better. He hopes to “move forward with cost effectiveness” in 2014.

Komar's long-term goals include applying for a grant to improve the intersection of Darlington Hill Road and Route 30. He said he has submitted paperwork to PennDot to notify them that it is a concern.

He said he wants to look past borough and township lines so that municipal officials can collaborate on bringing more tourism dollars into Ligonier.

“If we want to promote Ligonier Valley, we have to give people a reason to come here,” he said. “We can't let it be ‘the borough this, the township that.' We're all in the boat and if it sinks, we're all going down.”

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or nchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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