Mt. Pleasant-hosted G-11 Conference to welcome 4 new member municipalities
When Brooklyn native Joey Escalona traveled in 2013 from his current home in West Palm Beach, Fla., to live in the Fayette County borough of Dunbar, he said he became enamored with the small-town atmosphere there.
“It was almost as though I went back in time,” said Escalona, who came north to work near the borough as temporary property manager of the Laurel Mall, owned by Gator Investments, which is adjacent to State Route 119 in Dunbar Township.
“Dunbar is such a beautiful, peaceful town ... so out of the norm for me,” he said.
One of the mall's tenants is newly elected Dunbar Borough Mayor Norman Gordon, who owns J's Coffee Shop on the property. Gordon said Escalona made it clear to him that he thinks Dunbar is a special place.
“He just said ‘I don't think you guys realize what you have here,'” Gordon said.
From the ornate, early 20th-century architecture to the friendly corner restaurant called the Kountry Klub, Escalona said the borough is a place he will always remember.
Dunbar's leaders, including Gordon, hope to spread the word of the borough's charms to help attract new visitors during the G-11 Conference scheduled for April 24-26 at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township.
Leaders in Dunbar Borough, along with the boroughs of South Greensburg and Southwest Greensburg, recently passed official resolutions to be become members of the organization.
In early March, officials of the City of Uniontown plan to vote to become members of the group, as well, according to city Councilman Phil Michael.
The three-day, G-11 summit will unite those municipalities with veteran members, Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale, South Connellsville, Connellsville, Everson, New Stanton and Youngwood.
The gathering will include three days of informal workshop discussions designed to determine ways to better share information and pool resources of value to each.
“What (the new members) bring to the table is enthusiasm, they want to contribute and participate, they all bring that, and they all saw a need for this,” said Mt. Pleasant Borough Manager Jeff Landy, the event's founder.
In all, the board reviewed queries from 10 municipalities interested in taking part in the event, Landy said.
The four municipalities targeted as new members represent a logical geographic progression as it relates to the other G-11 members, he added.
This year's conference — referred to in its logo as “11 Governments • 1 Alliance” — will be the fifth of its kind to be held.
Dunbar Borough is intent on exposure
Gordon said the decision to join the G-11 was a unanimous one by members of Dunbar Borough Council.
“We'd heard about it, and we thought, ‘Why not get involved?'” Gordon said. “You get a bunch of people together, and it's amazing what you can get out of the conversation to make our life and everybody else's life better. If we can come up with some ideas to help the community grow, that's our goal.”
The borough boasts proximity to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
The Sheepskin Trail, a tributary of the Great Allegheny Passage hiking-biking trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., also runs through the middle of town, Gordon said.
“I want people to say ‘Let's go to Dunbar ... where there are things to see and things to do,” he said. “I want to find out what is feasible and what isn't; I think the people who are going to be at this conference are going to do that.”
Brad Geyer, a Connellsville City councilman who sits on the conference's board of directors, sees Dunbar as a valuable addition to the group, he said.
“Dunbar is a small, but strong community that we have seen residents stepping up to help better the town,” Geyer said. “Dunbar has a great town festival, and their (Dunbar) Historical Society is very active. A big part of this event is to find out more.”
South Greensburg ponders grant availability
South Greensburg Borough Council President Clentin Martin said he first learned of the ‘G' conference several years ago by talking with Landy.
Prior to borough council voting to join the conference recently, Martin said, he invited Landy to attend a council meeting to explain the summit's merits.
“The purpose of the G-11 is for various municipalities to get together and discuss common problems, see where we have common points of interest or problems, and try to arrive at solutions that would help everyone involved,” Martin said.
In addition to learning more about grant funding opportunities for various initiatives, Martin said, he and other borough officials attending the conference plan to share details about its established ordinances, laws and regulations.
“For example, a lot of municipalities don't have a police force, and we do,” Martin said. “We hope that we're going to be able to be provided with information, provide information from what we have experienced, and determine ways to possibly alleviate costs by sharing costs.”
In his 4 1⁄2 years serving on council, Martin said the governmental body has made a point of seeking the input of leaders in nearby boroughs with ordinances being considered for establishment.
“This (conference) will give us a forum where we can present ideas and also bring in non-council people, including borough workers, to share what they know,” Martin said.
“Everyone thinks council knows everything, but we have people who have expertise in specific areas based on what they do every day.”
Southwest Greensburg seeks data on signs
Since taking over as Southwest Greensburg Borough Manager in 2011, Corey Sheffler said he is the sounding board for the municipality regarding residents' thoughts and concerns.
“I handle all the incoming phone calls and help customers while I share the office with the (borough) police (department),” Sheffler said.
Sheffler, who learned about the conference through newspaper articles, got a call from Landy about the municipality becoming a member, he said.
“I was excited when Jeff called,” Sheffler said.
“I think the biggest thing we're hoping to get out of it is interaction with other municipalities, along with sharing with our peers and seeing what ways we can discover methods of bettering our borough.”
One specific subject Sheffler is interested in discussing involves ways to possibly standardize aspects of ordinances regulating signs between municipalities to offer more consistency.
Joining Sheffler at the summit will be borough police Chief Chris Kent and borough streets and sanitation supervisor John Warren.
“We plan to come to every meeting. We're excited about the discussions that will take place,” Sheffler said.
Landy said both South Greensburg and Southwest Greensburg boroughs share characteristics the other conference members can learn from.
“I think they have some different ordinances in place because of their proximity to colleges, the state highways that go through them, and a bigger surrounding population by proximity,” Landy said. “They bring some information to us as a group.”
Uniontown is in agreement on joining, official says
Uniontown officials will vote to officially join the G-11 Conference in early March.
“Mayor Ed Fike is 100 percent in support of it,” Michael said. “We just spoke to members of council, and we're confident the votes will be there to do so.”
Michael added that the city's leaders will enter the G-11 Conference in search of new ideas and initiatives.
“I've been following it since it was the G-5,” Michael said.
“I would like our city staff and our city clerk to take part. I think it would be good for the city to be involved.”
City officials plan to pursue information on ways to better regulate parking in city limits, he said.
“A couple of the members have programs we might benefit from learning more about along those lines,” Michael said.
Michael also pointed out that the city will become the lone member with a full-time fire department.
“So we can share some information about that,” he said.
“Whatever we can get out of it, and whatever we contribute to the other members, that is what we're trying to do. I think it's a great initiative to bring local municipalities together and talk about local issues.”
Landy said the addition of a city like Uniontown to the conference will be of great benefit to all involved.
“The mixture of boroughs and cities enhances the group of communities already involved, and it's good to see Uniontown (preparing to) accept the invitation, which will now give us two cities and nine boroughs,” he said. “I'm sure they have a lot to offer.”
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.