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Blairsville tax collector resigns

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Joan Baker has resigned as Blairsville's elected tax collector, and borough officials are hoping to appoint a replacement to fill out the remaining year of her term.

Blairsville Council held a special meeting Wednesday morning to accept Baker's letter of resignation, which indicated she was stepping down effective Jan. 17 after 11 years of service. The letter did not state a reason for Baker's decision to resign.

Vice President Ron Evanko, who chaired the meeting, pointed out that applicants must be borough residents. “They have to be bondable,” he added, noting that classes are available to familiarize new tax collectors with the procedures of the position.

Council has 30 days to appoint a replacement, but borough manager Tim Evans said the panel will hold a special session at 6 p.m. Feb. 11 to select an appointee since county officials prefer quick action on the matter. Letters of application will be accepted at the borough office until 2 p.m. Feb. 8.

While the local earned income tax is now collected through a county-wide system, Blairsville's elected collector handles other borough taxes — including real estate and per capita taxes and Local Service Tax payments. Tax receipts are then distributed as applicable to the borough, the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District and Indiana County.

Evanko confirmed that Blairsville's new collector, who will be appointed through the end of the current year, will be offered use of the existing tax office at the borough building with no charge for rent or utilities save for phone service. Those were the same terms in effect for Baker.

At its regular Jan. 15 meeting, council voted to start charging rent for the space, at $200 per month, beginning in 2014. All utilities except phone service still will be included.

Council also agreed to retain the existing commission rates to be earned by whoever is elected as borough tax collector for a new full term beginning next year. The rates are 2 percent for tax bills collected during the discount period and 5 percent for bills collected at face value or with a late penalty.

In another tax matter last week, Evanko, Evans and council member Carrie Smith were appointed to represent Blairsville as delegates to a county-wide committee that oversees collection of earned income taxes.

Evanko, Smith, Jeff Marshall and Jim Mollo attended the Jan. 15 meeting. Evanko said council would delay action on several appointments — mostly reappointments — to various borough panels until remaining members — President John Bertolino and Mary Ugoletti — could also be present to join in voting.

Letters seeking appointments were received from: Justin Fridley, for the Blairsville Municipal Authority; Irv Lindsey, for the civil service commission; Leann Chaney, for the planning commission; Peggy Dills, for the parking authority; Rick Shoemaker, for the recreation board; Jon Herby and Constance Ottie, for the shade tree commission; and Jeff Marshall, Linda Gwinn and Carol Persichetti, for the Blairsville Community Development Authority.

An additional letter was received from James E. Durant requesting reappointment to the borough codes appeal board.

Evanko, who serves on the Blairsville Historic Preservation Board, noted that panel has not been active and asked if the Blairsville Community Development Authority (BCDA) could take over the board's functions.

Chaney, who is executive director of the BCDA, indicated the board's mission would fall readily within the committee structure of the authority's Elm Street program, particularly the design committee. The state-funded Elm Street program seeks to make improvements within targeted neighborhoods in the borough.

Evanko and Mayor Joe Caugherty praised the efforts of borough crew members to clear snow from streets following recent winter storms.

But Evanko noted one problem area in town: incidents where snow was plowed from private parking lots onto the adjoining sidewalk.

Curt Ramsden, the borough ordinance officer, reminded property owners that they are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks within 24 hours after snowfall ends in a particular storm.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or jhimler@tribweb.com.

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