Blairsville seeks state funds to help attract grocerry store
By Jeff Himler
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Blairsville Borough is applying for state funding of up to $500,000 to help attract a major grocery store back to the downtown business district.
At its regular Tuesday meeting, borough council agreed to seek grant-to-loan funding of the redevelopment effort through the Keystone Communities Development Grant program. Leann Chaney, the borough's grant writer and executive director of the Blairsville Community Development Authority, explained if the borough receives the grant it can then loan the money to a potential private developer to help with the costs of reestablishing an in-town grocery store.
The developer would have to repay the loan under terms approved by the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and the borough could then use the money as a revolving loan fund to help with other private development projects.
“I think it would be a good opportunity,” Chaney said. She noted the borough already has another $23,000 grant-to-loan in place that was used to help TREK Development with costs of establishing the Grandview Pointe housing complex across from Blairsville's football field.
According to Chaney, the maximum funding the borough can seek is the lower amount of either $500,000 or 30 percent of project costs.
A downtown grocery store has been at the top of the wish list for borough residents as noted in various planning studies conducted since the closure of Blairsville's BiLo supermarket in March 2010.
Borough council also committed to providing a $5,000 local match if Indiana County officials are successful in obtaining two state grants to help with engineering and design of a proposed pedestrian bridge across Route 22 nearby in Burrell Township. The county is seeking up to $360,000 for the bridge — which is part of a preferred route for connecting the county's Hoodlebug hiking and biking trail to the new Blairsville Riverfront Trail.
Council awarded a contract for Blairsville's summer paving program to low bidder Ligonier Construction for a total price of $33,155. The award is pending a review by the borough's solicitor and manager. Slated for resurfacing are: East Brown Street between Brady and Morrow streets; a portion of East Second Avenue; portions of Sugar Alley; Iron Alley between Stewart Street and East Lane; and a portion of North East Lane.
At the request of Police Chief Michael Allman, council agreed to purchase a new Ford Expedition/Interceptor utility police vehicle from Tri-Star Motors for $24,950, a price set through a state bidding program. The borough will obtain the vehicle through a three-year, lease-purchase agreement — paying $9,518.13 the first year and making a final $1 payment to take ownership of the unit.
Allman said two of the borough's three existing police vehicles have developed transmission problems. He said he would like to begin a long-range plan of replacing older police vehicles on a regular basis.
Allman added that the Expedition will provide officers a better vantage point when patrolling the borough: “When you sit up higher, you see more.”
Allman was hired as police chief at a special March 25 council meeting. Since then, he said he has been working to revise his department's policies and procedures, has been introducing himself to local businesses and has moved into the borough from his previous home in Wellsburg, W. Va.
Allman reported that he and Officer Greg Morrow, using a Taser, were able to help an Indiana County Humane Society official corral a pit bull that recently attacked another dog in the vicinity of SS. Simon and Jude Church. Allman said the attacking dog and another pit bull belonging to the same owner were taken to the Humane Society shelter near Indiana.
At the suggestion of borough manager Tim Evans, council agreed to purchase a motorized cart from the 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Company for $500. Evans said the small vehicle will come in handy for performing maintenance tasks on the Riverfront Trail.
Blairsville will pay $975 plus shipping to order a replacement for a tic-tac-toe game that was smashed by unknown vandals at the playground behind the Blairsville Community Center. Unfortunately, Evans noted, the insurance policy covering the playground equipment includes a $1,000 deductible. He said the incident will be referred to borough police.
In other business, council appointed Matthew Mikeska to a vacant seat on the Blairsville Community Development Authority board of directors.
Council approved a recommendation from the borough planning commission to allow subdivision of the Mosco property situated between Maple Avenue and Corner Alley. According to borough manager Tim Evans, the resident wants to keep the portion of the property fronting on Corner and sell the part adjoining Maple.
Evans said he plans to hold a hearing during May's council meeting to consider a request from adjoining residents to have the borough vacate two paper alleys off Hodge Street.
Mayor Joe Caugherty proclaimed April 26 Arbor Day in the borough. Polly Ringler said the borough shade tree commission hopes to dedicate its first memorial tree that day.
On April 27, the BCDA is organizing a community cleanup day, with volunteers to be assigned to pick up litter in various parts of the town between 9 a.m. and noon. Volunteers are to report at 8:30 a.m. for registration at the BCDA office, 130 W. Market St. The first 100 volunteers will receive a T-shirt. Lunch and a beverage coupon will be provided. For more information or to help sponsor the event, call the BCDA at 724-459-8588.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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