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Mon-Yough councils of government hint at merger plans

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 3:41 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Steel Valley Council of Governments president Raymond Bodnar of Munhall and Twin Rivers Council of Governments president Monica Glowinski thank Twin Rivers' outgoing president Kenneth Hresko of Port Vue for his service. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Twin Rivers Council of Governments executive director John Palyo, right, and Steel Valley Council of Governments executive director An Lewis review Thursday's agenda with keynote speaker John J. Exler of the Allegehny County Department of Economic Development.

Representatives of local, county and state government gathered on Thursday for the first joint general assembly meeting of Steel Valley and Twin Rivers councils of government.

The combined meeting, which filled Georgetown Centre in Pleasant Hills with officials from across the Mon-Yough region, evolved from the growing partnership among local COGs.

That affiliation could blossom further as officers of each COG revealed talk of a merger.

“With the many similarities and geographic locations of our COGs, the experience we have shared with the loss of member communities and budget restraints, we feel this might work out and be beneficial for both organizations,” outgoing Twin Rivers president Kenneth Hresko of Port Vue said.

There have been two meetings to discuss benefits and concerns of a larger council of governments and talks will continue in coming months.

“Hopefully the outcome will be a positive for both organizations involved,” Hresko said.

Steel Valley COG president Raymond Bodnar of Munhall said the process will be challenging, filled with new ideas and difficult decisions.

“Future economics and changes dictate that we must consolidate various services beneficial to both COGs,” Bodnar said. “We must pursue the most effective methods for future development. Communication is key to moving ahead.”

The COGs have been working together to eliminate blight and develop a land banking program. They will continue police chief meetings and start similar sessions for municipal managers and secretaries.

“A lot of times, this is where new COG programming is born,” Steel Valley executive director An Lewis said. “They know how to achieve better services through cooperating.”

Twin Rivers executive director John Palyo encouraged officials from member municipalities to participate as COG programs grow and evolve.

“Let's continue to work together and share together as we continue to improve our region,” he said.

Palyo and Lewis invited John J. Exler, deputy director of operations for the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, to speak about federal funding that has eliminated blight and improved infrastructure in every member community.

Exler spoke about the growth of federal Community Development Block Grant funding over the past 40 years.

“This highly effective program, championed by President Nixon and Congress in 1974, was envisioned to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing, suitable living environments and expanding economic opportunities, principally for persons of low or moderate income,” Exler said.

“CDBG is as vital and relevant today, even more so as the economic downturn of the last several years has placed severe financial and other burdens on communities, residents, housing and employment opportunities.”

Over 40 years, Allegheny County has received more than $632 million in CDBG funding. Compared to other entitled urban counties, Allegheny County receives the third largest allocation in the country.

Over the past three years, Steel Valley COG has received $5,185,804 in federal funding, and Twin Rivers COG has received $3,085,828.

Exler encouraged the COGs and member municipalities to make the most of their dollars.

“We will need to work together to develop better projects for the upcoming year that will make a greater impact on our residents,” he said.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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