Frick cites age in decision to retire as Indiana County commissioner
Indiana County Commissioner David Frick cited advancing years as a factor in his decision to retire from the county's three-member executive board at the end of the year. Frick announced his pending retirement at the commissioners' regular Sept. 25 meeting.
“This has been a very difficult decision for me to make, as this has been a good team of commissioners to work with, and I want to see that continue after my departure,” Frick said in his letter of resignation. “It has become more obvious to me that the aging process impacts comprehension, memory and decision-making. My love for Indiana County and my respect for my fellow commissioners does not allow me to continue under these circumstances. I will continue to pray for wisdom, for guidance for you, my friends, to lead this county forward.”
Frick, who has lived his entire life in Indiana County, has two years remaining on his third term as commissioner.
“At this stage of the game, I am 78 years old,” Frick said after the meeting, noting that his cognitive dexterity isn't what it was 10 years ago when he came into office. “And rather than damage the reputation of this board of commissioners — or rather than hurt the success of Indiana County — I just want to move out before that becomes obvious to my friends who are citizens of the county.”
In his 10 years on the board, Frick said they have had some significant accomplishments.
Shortly after his first term began, the decision was made to construct a new $30 million county jail facility. He also pointed out the $15 million county-wide communication system for the Emergency Management Agency that the commissioners helped create, and the recent county reassessment that is currently being conducted for the first time in 45 years, a $3 million project.
“Those were the big things that we have done, and I'm proud of those things,” Frick said. “And I don't want anything to damage that reputation. So that's why I'm doing what I'm doing.
“We've had a great team.”
Once Frick bows out at the end of the year, the Republican party of which he is a member will be tasked with finding his replacement for the two remaining years of the term.
“Dave, we want to wish you the very best,” said Chairman Rodney Ruddock. “We still have a lot of work to be done between now and Dec. 31 obviously, but the county recognizes your thoughts, appreciates your work and service, and we as a team really love you.”
Three separate resolutions to file for three proposed Keystone Opportunities Expansion Zones (KOEZ) were approved by the commissioners.
The commissioners were briefed on the three properties at the Sept. 11 meeting, where Stauffer pinpointed parcels in Green and White townships and in Blairsville Borough for real estate and business tax abatements for 10 years as an incentive to draw businesses to the KOEZ land parcels. The KOEZ program targets land that is vacant or underused, marking them for redevelopment.
The three properties the commissioners approved as KOEZ targets are the former Gorell plant in White Township (17.67 acres), the former PolyVision plant in Green Township (16.69 acres), now referred to as the Dixonville Commons, and the former Bi-Lo building in Blairsville (3.14 acres).
The respective school districts and municipalities have all also granted approval for the KOEZ parcels.
Manufacturing firms are being targeted for the parcels in Green and White townships, while Blairsville is pursuing a grocery store to take over the old Bi-Lo building.
“That's the direction they're heading, and they're working feverishly to make that happen,” said Byron Stauffer, executive director of the county Office of Planning and Development. “But ultimately, the market is going to dictate that.”
A financial support agreement between the commissioners and Strategic Real Estate Properties, LLC was also approved concerning an outbuilding that is included with the Blairsville KOEZ parcel. The outbuilding houses the PA Wine and Spirits Store and an office suite.
Because the outbuilding is a fully leased structure already with occupants, the financial support agreement will provide annual payments in the amount of $524.24 from Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2023. As part of the agreement, Strategic Real Estate Properties, LLC will also pay a sum total to 25 percent of the assessed value for remaining portions of the property in the eighth year of the agreement; 50 percent in year nine; and 75 percent in year 10.
The Indiana County Emergency Management Agency presented several items for the commissioners' consideration. The commisioners authorizes the county EMA to make use of a hazardous material response fund grant for 2013-14. The total amount for this annual grant will be $30,833. The EMA uses it to purchase liability insurance.
The commissioners also approved an emergency management performance grant fund, which is funneled to the state through the federal government. The grant is used to reimburse the salary and benefits for the EMA director and the operations and training coordinator. The $68,250 grant requires a county match in the same amount.
A vehicle purchase was also approved, replacing a 1985 Chevy 3⁄4-ton pickup and a 1990 Chevy 3⁄4-ton truck. The EMA will purchase a 2014 Ford F350 pickup equipped with a salt spreader and 8.5-foot steel plow through Tri-Star Motors at a cost of $32,480, paid for using Act 165 funds. No county money is involved with the purchase.
The commissioners authorized a cooperative agreement between the county and the Indiana County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) for the implementation of a pilot home repair program for those age 60 or older who are income-eligible.
The Area Agency on Aging will receive state funds for the repairs made to homes, while the county planning office would provide intake, contracting, inspection and fiscal services for the program.
The Area Agency on Aging started the ball rolling on this partnership because it has policies and procedures and available staff in place to immediately begin the program. The agency is working with the state to finalize details on the contract.
The agency plans to use its allotment of funds through the PA Lottery to run its portion of the the home repair program.
“There are calls every day,” said LuAnn Zak, deputy director of community development and housing in the county's Office of Planning and Development. “We have senior citizens who have worked all their lives in this county who sit for a year without a furnace because they have no money.
“There is a need, and we are really excited about this opportunity.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Recognized Dana Henry for his service to the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, on which he has served since 1998.
• Began the process of extending the life of the Hospital Authority by 50 years by signing a resolution that will be advertised before being submitted to the Secretary of the State for final approval.
• Contracted with Gary Hayden Appraisal Services of Greensburg for real property consultant/appraisal review, assisting with real estate tax appeals for industrial, commercial and special use properties. He will be used on an as-needed basis at $175 per hour.
• Reallocated $180,000 from the HOME 2009 contract from new construction to substantial rehabilitation, at the request of the county planning office. The funds were originally going to be used to replace four dilapidated mobile homes, but will instead be used to acquire, rehabilitate or resale vacant houses in Banks, Canoe, Grant, Green and Montgomery townships and Cherry Tree and Glen Campbell boroughs.
The courthouse will be closed Oct. 14 in observance of Columbus Day. The next regular meeting of the Indiana County Commissioners will be held Oct. 16 at the courthouse.
Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.