Blairsville Borough scales back paving plan to fit budget
By Jeff Himler
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:54 p.m.
Blairsville officials are planning to defer resurfacing of a few major streets in order to keep this year's paving project within range of budgetary limits.
Borough manager Tim Evans told council on Tuesday that Blairsville could expect to spend more than $100,000 if it were to complete 10 streets originally proposed for repaving this year. But, he said, by focusing mainly on side streets and alleys and bumping larger streets back to future paving seasons, council could keep the estimated cost of the project within a few hundred dollars of the roughly $34,600 that has been set aside for the task.
“We estimated we're within $300 of our budget” after delaying work on larger streets, Evans said, noting, “We estimated high because of gas prices.”
Council voted to seek bids for resurfacing: East Brown Street between Brady and Morrow streets; a portion of East Second Avenue beginning at Route 217; North East Lane from East Campbell Street to North Lane; Iron Alley from South Stewart Street to South East Lane; and three sections of Sugar Alley — between North Morrow and North Brady streets, from East Lane to Stewart Street and from Stewart Street to Walnut Street.
“A lot of our alleys have been torn up,” Evans observed.
He recommended delaying paving on North Morrow Street and West Ranson Avenue until 2014 and resurfacing of East Burrell and South Brady streets until 2015. “We should be in pretty good shape after that,” he said.
Council took advantage of a good deal on used equipment for spreading road salt and approved purchase of new radios for the borough police department.
Council members agreed to buy a used stainless steel SaltDogg hopper spreader from Mike Short for $800. Evans explained Short didn't want the attachment that came with a truck he had purchased.
According to Evans, the spreader will sit in the back of the borough's 3⁄4-ton pickup truck. He said it will allow for greater efficiency when treating roads for snow, without having to attempt to squeeze a larger borough truck into narrow alleys.
The spreader is a bargain, he said, indicating similar used attachments can cost up to $2,500.
Borough council also agreed to spend $21,153 on updated Motorola radios for Blairsville's police force. The purchase includes a base radio, three dash-mounted units for police vehicles and seven portable radios for officers including chargers and microphones.
Councilman Ron Evanko, who serves on Indiana County's 911 communications committee, said the new radios are needed to conform to the county's improved emergency radio system, which will go into effect for local police on May 1.
The radio purchase is within the $25,000 the borough had budgeted for that item. “We've been proactive and planned for the future,” Evanko observed. He added that county officials were still seeking grant funding to help pay for the new radios needed by local police.
“If a grant comes in, maybe we'll get some money back” toward the cost of the borough radios, Evanko said.
Leann Chaney, executive director of the Blairsville
Community Development Authority, reported some good news on the funding front for her organization.
She said the authority received a letter indicating it has been awarded a total of $100,000 in final state operational funding for the fourth and fifth years of Blairsville's Elm Street program. That will help cover office expenses and staff salaries, including Chaney's, for this year and for 2014 as the authority carries out the Elm Street mission of improving targeted residential areas of the borough.
In future years, the BCDA is expected to be self-supporting, and Chaney indicated the authority has begun to prepare by increasing funds received through a giving campaign and through the annual Comedy Night Live fundraiser that was just held at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center.
In the past, Blairsville and BCDA received companion facade funding to help borough homeowners improve the exteriors of their dwellings. Chaney said word is still pending from the state Department of Community and Economic Development on an additional $185,000 in facade assistance the BCDA applied for in April 2012.
She said BCDA is supplying additional documentation to support the application and hopes to learn the fate of the funding request this spring. With a maximum of $5,000 available per property through matching grants, the funding could help with about 36 home facade projects.
Council received a letter from Matthew Mikeska seeking appointment to a vacancy on the BCDA board. In the letter, he noted that he has resided in the borough since 2004 and that his family has expanded its business, Ravaila's restaurant on West Market Street, to accommodate group functions. Per its standing policy, council will wait a month to review the letter before acting on it.
Brenda Shutter, a volunteer with the BCDA, reported the organization is inviting Blairsville citizens to a Community Roundtable meeting at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Blairsville Community Center at 101 North Lane.
She said the gathering is intended as a forum for discussing “plans and possibilities for improving Blairsville.”
While the floor will be open for suggestions of “what people would like to have happen in town,” Shutter said topics of discussion may also include proposals for reviving an annual community festival and providing children's programs in the summer as well as organizing the town's businesses to offer joint promotions.
She said additional volunteers also are needed to help with existing community efforts including maintaining the new riverfront biking and hiking trail, tending public plantings, adopting a street for ongoing litter cleanup and participating in periodic community-wide cleanups like the event planned for April 27.
BCDA also has discussed initiating a “Blairsville Rocks” event that would include rock painting and a rock stacking contest.
In other business Tuesday, council approved a minor subdivision for the Historical Society of the Blairsville Area, as recommended by the borough planning commission.
Evans explained the historical society has obtained ownership of a 75-square-foot lot at the corner of Campbell and Stewart streets where a home was destroyed by fire and is annexing the property to the adjoining 75-foot by 45-foot parcel at 116 E. Campbell St. where the society's headquarters and museum stands.
According to Evans, there are no definite plans at this point for how the society may use the additional land.
Evans expressed hope that borough tax bills would be sent to residents this week now that newly appointed tax collector Carol Tarasovich has settled into her role.
He said the process of collecting local tax revenues is probably about a month behind schedule due to the transition that followed the decision of previous collector Joan Baker to step down from her elected post.
Evans said borough finances are temporarily “going to be tight. Everybody's watching their pennies.” But he and Evanko agreed that the borough's reserve fund will provide a safety net until tax receipts start arriving.
Egg hunt planned
Evans announced the Friends of Blairsville Parks and Recreation Foundation and WyoTech are sponsoring Blairsville's annual Easter egg hunt for ages 10 or younger at 10 a..m March 30 behind the Blairsville Community Center.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Blairsville fire hall will play host to “Take A Stand Against Drugs,” the seventh in a series of town hall meetings on the regional problem of drug abuse sponsored by the Indiana County District Attorney's Office and the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission.
Speakers from various organizations will offer tips on what parents and community members can do if they suspect illicit drug use and where to turn if someone needs help. A “mock bedroom” will be set up to show examples of where drugs and drug paraphernalia can be hidden.
Those attending the meeting can enter to win a $25 Sheetz gift card.
Jill Gaston, officer in charge of the Blairsville police department, reported that the department received a $3,000 grant to support underage drinking enforcement this year and that officers will be working this detail more frequently as the weather warms up.
On Feb. 2, two Blairsville officers assisted Punxsutawney Borough Police during that town's annual Groundhog Day celebration, prompting a letter of appreciation from Punxsutawney Police Chief Thomas M. Fedigan Jr.
Gaston noted officials at Blairsville Elementary School have invited borough police officers to take part in the school's Thursday lunch programs, holiday parties and the recent Read Across America event. Gaston has attended all these events.
In a new police outreach program, she reported, three residents have completed “ride-alongs” with officers on patrols. She noted the program has generated positive feedback.
Gaston also reported Blairsville's revived Crime Watch program has proven a success, with monthly meetings held at various locations in town. The most recent meeting was to have been held Thursday at the Blairsville Elks.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or email@example.com.
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