G7 Conference begins near Mt. Pleasant
If Diane Derco is as excited about taking part in the G7 Conference as she says she is, event founder Jeff Landy said he knows he must be on to something.
The conference — referred to in its logo as “7 Governments • 1 Alliance” — returns Thursday through Saturday to the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center at 941 Laurelville Lane in Mt. Pleasant Township.
Now in its fourth year, the local summit will bring together leaders from Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale, South Connellsville, Connellsville and Everson, along with new members New Stanton and Youngwood, for three days of informal workshop discussions designed to determine ways to better share information and pool valuable resources.
Derco — Youngwood's secretary/treasurer — also serves as Westmoreland County's representative to the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
Additionally, Derco is a member of the state association's executive committee, and she also sits on its board of trustees.
For a person with her connections across the commonwealth, Derco shared a shining perspective on the G7 Conference and its value to the involved municipalities.
“To the best of my knowledge, this event is very unique,” she said. “I have not heard of any other group doing this in Pennsylvania. There are seminars and other kinds of conferences, but this is networking. It's new to us (in Youngwood). Are we looking forward to it? Absolutely.”
Landy — Mt. Pleasant's borough manager — shares Derco's anticipation in kicking off the growing conference's latest installment, he said.
“I think, as we have grown to our fourth year, there's a better understanding among the communities involved regarding the concept of this conference,” he said. “And the two new communities bring in fresh, new ideas, and obviously they anticipate being a part of it so it raises the level of enthusiasm for all the members.”
In one of nine sessions to be held during the event, Youngwood officials, including Derco, will address ways to better coordinate municipal recycling and environmental protection efforts.
“We're going to have a representative from Allied Waste in attendance, along with Ellen Keefe from Westmoreland Cleanways,” said Derco regarding the workshop to take place at 10 a.m. Friday.
Youngwood has experience in such initiatives, Derco said, as it recently received about $3,500 in Act 904 grant funding for its recycling program.
“We just want to educate the other municipalities on what grant funding is available for recycling,” Derco said. “All you have to do is keep track of your tonnage, so it's an easy grant to complete.”
Youngwood will also host a workshop at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on legislative initiatives featuring state borough association spokeswoman Courtney Accurti and Pennsylvania Municipal League deputy executive director Richard Schuettler.
In the event's opening session at 10 a.m. Thursday, South Connellsville's street department foreman Tim Ritenour and street maintenance employee Marvin Striner will be on hand to moderate a discussion group on the inner workings of public works and street departments.
The workshop will address South Connellsville's efforts to work with officials of Connellsville and Connellsville Township to purchase a machine to seal cracks in street surfaces to keep out moisture prior to paving, said Clyde Martz, who is vice president of South Connellsville Borough Council.
“This year, we're working together to buy one and split the cost,” Martz said.
Mt. Pleasant officials will host a session at 1 p.m. Thursday focusing on crime control and relationships with the state police.
“That one's going to have a lot of good people there to answer questions and facilitate discussion on (public safety issues) that affect cities and boroughs,” Landy said.
In attendance will be Dan Zilli, assistant chief of the borough's police department and Westmoreland County Drug Task Force coordinator, and borough Officer George Grippo, who partners with Gerro, the department's K-9 officer.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Scottdale officials will conduct a workshop on tax assessment and appeals.
Borough Council President Bud Santimyer said he's retained commitments from Westmoreland County chief tax assessor William S. Ferraro and Fayette County chief tax assessor William J. Lukach to speak during the session.
“That's because three of our member communities are from Fayette and four are from Westmoreland,” said Santimyer, a tax assessor who works for Westmoreland County. “We run into people all the time who don't understand the process or repercussions of (tax assessment) appeals. When somebody appeals a property (tax assessment), it affects the tax income coming into the municipality. Some people don't understand that relationship.”
Since the conference's first year in 2010, instances of involved municipalities sharing ideas and resources have increased, Landy said.
“We have a bucket truck and Connellsville and Scottdale have borrowed it, and Connellsville has a roller for tarring and chipping we can use,” he said.
The worth of the G7 Conference, however, cannot be reduced to mere savings in dollars and cents for members, Landy added.
“There's a value to information and knowledge. If we can learn a new and a better way to do something, it's hard to put a price on that,” he said. “We live next to each other like neighbors, but now we're not just neighbors, we're friends.”
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.