Indiana County OKs extra help for housing clients
The Indiana County commissioners last Wednesday reaffirmed the county's commitment to furthering fair housing initiatives.
In addition to proclaiming April as Fair Housing Month, the commissioners approved a number of resolutions and contracts pertaining to housing and human services.
The commissioners approved extending for an additional six months the county's option to purchase agreement with Julius and Eileet Triber of Clearwater, Fla., for the Clinton Street property where the Homeless Veterans Housing Project is to be constructed. The extension was requested because, according to the county Office of Planning and Development, the funding contract from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is in the final stages of processing but has not yet been executed.
The county also approved two contracts for human services, one to provide those seeking housing assistance with a group of other associated support services and another to establish a database to track the outcomes of those services.
Individuals requiring housing assistance will soon have access to a new program that will provide case management, employment skills training and financial management classes, according to Bonni Dunlap, executive director of the county's Department of Human Services.
“Some of the individuals maybe need some assistance — some case management, some financial skills management, some employment skills training,” Dunlap said. “So we decided that we could put together a package ... where there would be all these services bundled in to provide them support services from the time that they need housing up to a year afterwards.”
The commissioners approved a contract with Family Promise to provide “lead case management” for the new program.
Dunlap said the Department of Human Services, Family Promise, Career T.R.A.C.K., the Indiana County Community Action Program and the Indiana County Housing Authority have all agreed to participate in the program, which has yet to be given an official name. S&T Bank has offered to assist with the financial management education segment of the program but has not yet formally committed, according to Dunlap.
The commissioners also approved a contract for an “Outcome Results System Database” that will allow the Department of Human Services to record and track the outcomes of various support services.
The commissioners approved Randy Foster, of the Indiana County Community Action Program, as the county's fair housing officer. Among other responsibilities, Foster will receive complaints of housing discrimination and take action to resolve those complaints.
The county received one bid for the subsurface gas rights to a 99-acre portion of the Ghost Town Trail stretching through Brush Valley, Burrell and Center townships. The commissioners unanimously approved the bid from XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil.
The county will realize $101,475 up front for the gas rights through XTO Energy's one-time payment of $1,025 per acre. XTO will also pay the county an 18 percent royalty on any future gas collected from the property. The agreement also stipulates no facilities will be constructed on the surface of the trail property.
Indiana County Parks and Trails director Ed Patterson said he hoped the money from the gas rights lease would be reserved for Parks and Trails' use.
“When we purchased the property and went through the acquisition, we worked very hard to make sure that we retained those rights, because they could have gone to somebody else,” Patterson said. “That was the idea, that we would retain those rights with the idea that they would benefit the Parks and Trails... I think the public also would support that, too.”
The county commissioners weren't ready to earmark the funds generated by the lease for any specific function.
“We just want to be up front with you that we may have other priorities, too, in the county that we would look at. But that isn't to say that we would not take care of our parks and trails,” commissioners Chairman Rodney Ruddock said.
In other business, the commissioners:
• Accepted a Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant in the amount of $32,000 for HAZMAT education training of county emergency services employees.
• Certified the budgeted amount of $62,000 as the local match for IndiGo's state operating financial assistance grant.
• Approved the sale of three former county vehicles to the respective high bidders. The high bids totalled around $4,300, according to chief clerk Robin Maryai.
• Recertified the county Revolving Loan Fund, a routine item required by the Economic Development Administration.
• Proclaimed May 12-18 as National Nursing Home Week in the county.
The commissioners' next meeting has been changed to 10:30 a.m. May 15.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at (724) 459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.