G-11 Conference to be held April 24-26 near Mt. Pleasant
When Jason A. Cox was promoted to chief of the Uniontown Police Department in 2008, the force was much smaller and had fewer resources.
Cox only had 13 healthy policemen on a 16-member staff for large chunks of his first year on the job in the Fayette County seat, which counts more than 10,000 residents, he said.
Today, the department has grown to 22 officers, including two K-9 officers each equipped with police dogs.
One of them, Patrolman Michael Garrow, is also a school resource officer for Uniontown Area School District.
The department also runs the Fayette County Booking Center established in 2011 by state, county and city officials to better enable the arraignment of suspects county-wide, after-hours.
“In working with a new administration once I was promoted to chief, I took a really proactive approach to building community partnerships that would help facilitate the availability of different resources,” Cox said. “I've also endeavored to go after as many grants as possible.”
That's why one of Cox's top officers, Capt. David Rutter, along with city Councilman Phil Michael, who is a state constable, have volunteered to lead a workshop on building a stronger police force at the upcoming G-11 Conference.
“I feel like the pride and joy of our city is our police department,” Michael said.
The summit, which will unite 11 area municipalities, is scheduled to take place April 24-26 at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mt. Pleasant Township.
This year's conference — referred to in its official logo as “11 Governments • 1 Alliance” — will be the fifth of its kind held.
It will bring leaders in Uniontown and 10 other area municipalities together for three days of informal workshop discussions to determine ways to better share information and pool resources.
In March, Uniontown city council voted to become one of four new municipalities to join this year's conference, along with South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg and Dunbar Borough.
Municipalities returning from years past include Connellsville, Everson, Mt. Pleasant Borough, New Stanton, Scottdale, South Connellsville and Youngwood.
“We're having a final preparatory meeting today at City Hall in Connellsville,” said Jeff Landy, Mt. Pleasant Borough manager and the event's founder.
In addition to Uniontown's workshop, leaders from other participating municipalities will lead interactive sessions on myriad municipal matters.
Mel Steele, New Stanton Borough's public works supervisor, zoning officer and flood plain administrator since 1996, said he secured Allison Strouse, liaison representative at Pennsylvania One Call System Inc., as the featured speaker at the public works workshop to be hosted by the borough.
The West Mifflin-based, nonprofit organization is known for its national, “call before you dig” telephone number of 8-1-1.
Its mission is to prevent damage to underground facilities and promote safety via an efficient and effective communications network among project owners, designers, excavators and facility owners.
“They (organization officials) come out and mark where the utilities are underground in your town, so when you're digging a drainage ditch, you won't hit one,” Steele said.
Following the address, Steele said, he plans to open up the workshop for a roundtable discussion.
“Then we can discuss problems, we'll discuss all kind of things,” he said. “I think (the G-11) is a good thing, because now if you have a problem, there's 10 other communities other than ours where, if I encounter a problem I have not encountered before, I can call them.”
Youngwood officials will conduct a workshop on land banks with featured speaker April Kopas, executive director of the Westmoreland County Land Bank.
The borough's council recently voted to make the municipality a member of the bank, which acquires, holds and transfers interest in real property throughout the county.
It does so to promote redevelopment and reuse of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties; to support targeted efforts to stabilize neighborhoods; and to stimulate residential, commercial and industrial development, Kopas said.
“We're looking to begin with 10 communities so we can have actual projects, so we can actually reacquire and redevelop properties,” she said.
Additional bank members include Mt. Pleasant, Sewickley Township, West Newton, Jeannette, Latrobe and Greensburg.
Scottdale Borough council has yet to vote on the possibility of joining the bank, Kopas added.
“We felt we could educate other municipalities on the process of getting involved with the land bank,” said Diane Derco, the borough's secretary/treasurer. “We're looking forward to the G-11 Conference.”
Secretaries, clerks and managers
South Greensburg Borough secretary Lee Kunkle said Kenneth Rotz, president of Keystate Publishers Inc. of Shippensburg, will serve as the speaker of a workshop hosted by the borough focusing on ordinance codification.
The borough is currently undergoing the process, Kunkle said, which involves streamlining a municipality's collection of rules and regulations.
“We're looking at having an electronic database,” he said. “That way, you can type in a keyword and it will bring up any ordinance associated with that word.”
Rotz said he would help further define the purpose and value of codification.
“I'll be explaining codification as a tool to organize and preserve ordinances and make them accessible to the public,” he said.
Councils and mayors
Southwest Greensburg Councilman Ron Holtzer, chairman of budget and administration committee and borough Manager Corey Sheffler will host a workshop detailing ways to preserve a relationship between a municipality's mayor and council.
Holtzer said he recently sat in on two webinars presented by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs on council duties and mayor/council relationships.
“The one webinar explained why a mayor should be at every meeting. That person could be the tie-breaking voter, but if they aren't at every meeting, how are they going to vote intelligently on a matter?”
Recreation, bike trails and special events
Mt. Pleasant Borough officials will host a workshop on how to maximize the benefits of recreational resources and special events.
“I'm going to discuss how we started the (Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic) festival, how we continued to make it grow ... and some issues that boroughs encounter putting on something like that,” said Landy, the festival's co-founder.
“You have to provide a lifestyle for the community ... things to do ... then they'll stay in town, eat in town and shop in town, so it's a domino effect,” Landy said.
Borough Councilman Jim Wojnar is the chairman of the parks and recreation committee.
“Basically, I'm going to speak on how to address the challenges of maintaining the parks in the borough on limited resources,” Wojnar said.
Officials of Scottdale Borough will lead a workshop on the pursuit of grant funding.
“I want to deal with grants of particular importance to the member municipalities — boroughs and cities — specifically regarding issues that will affect us going forward,” said Scottdale Borough Councilman Bud Santimyer. “I also want to hear about the interests of the conference's new members.”
Officials of Dunbar Borough will host a workshop on mobilizing volunteers to complete community projects and staff various events.
“We do have a couple organizations within the borough that are comprised strictly of volunteers, these organizations take on hosting numerous events within the borough,” borough Secretary Tammy Nedrow said. “By hosting this segment of the G-11, we are hoping to share, as well as to learn.”
Attorneys and solicitors
Connellsville City Councilman Brad Geyer said city Solicitor Timothy Witt of Watson Mundorff Brooks & Sepic LLP will host the conference's final workshop.
“Every year, things come up that require you to ask your solicitor about them, and Tim has been involved with these conferences before, and we know he can explain a lot from his point of view,” Geyer said.
Witt said his talk will focus primarily on detailing ways member municipalities can seek solutions to legal matters such as uniform ordinance development and group contracting with third-party services.
“It will be very much an open dialogue. People feel comfortable to add to discussion as it goes on. There's a real-time exchange of information there as it pertains to interest and needs of people present,” Witt said.
The event will conclude with a dinner on April 26.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.