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Fire pit regulations need adjusting in Whitehall

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Tweaks are needed to an ordinance that would regulate outdoor burning in Whitehall before it can be brought before council for final adoption, the borough solicitor says.

Solicitor Irving Firman last week told council members that several changes need to be made to an ordinance that outlines size limits for fire pits, the distance they can be located from a structure and times open flames are allowed.

The proposed ordinance was released for public review last month.

Changes will include the elimination of some distance requirements in the rules, such as that grills must be 5 feet from the structure, borough manager James Leventry said.

Borough officials, also, have not adopted the most recent version of the International Fire Code, something that must be done in cohesion with the ordinance, Leventry said.

Once the changes are made, the ordinance will be released for public review again for an additional two weeks before being brought before council for final passage, Leventry said.

Residents' complaints about smoke from neighbors who were burning outside triggered Whitehall leaders to look at adopting such an ordinance, they said.

Budget

A switch in statewide earned-income-tax collection procedures last year, coupled with nearly every borough department coming in under budget, led Whitehall to finish 2012 without taking any funds from town's reserve.

Borough leaders had estimated $1.4 million would be used from the $4.2 million reserve at the end of 2012 to balance the budget.

The collection of earned income tax brought in almost $1.3 million more than budgeted, Councilman Robert McKown said.

The borough had budgeted $2.9 million in earned income tax receipts for 2012, Leventry said. Yet, the borough actually received $4.2 million in earned income tax collection last year.

Statewide changes to earned-income-tax collection went into effect at the beginning of 2012.

State Act 32 requires uniform withholding of earned income taxes and remittance to a single local collector for a given area.

Jordan Tax Service was selected to collect earned income taxes for the South Hills region. Berkheimer had collected the tax in Whitehall prior to the switch, Leventry said. Whitehall has budgeted $3.3 million for the collection of earned income taxes in 2013, Leventry said.

Borough officials plan to use $834,000 from the reserve at the end of 2013.

Road improvements

Ten streets are set to be paved in Whitehall this year as part of the 2013 road improvement program.

Borough council, in a unanimous vote last week, agreed to a contract with El Grande Industries for $695,325 to complete the project.

The project will come in under the $800,000 budget set for this year's program, which included about $50,000 for engineering work, Leventry said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

Earth Day

Whitehall Borough will celebrate “Earth Day” on April 20.

Borough council agreed last week to adopt that date for cleanup throughout the town.

Officials also discussed the idea of asking refugees from the Whitehall Place housing complex who participate in the Library with Easy Access Program to take part in cleanup of the town.

Help also will be sought from the Whitehall Lions Club and local boy scouts, officials said.

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