Blairsville to vote on police contract
Blairsville Council has scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Thursday to consider a proposed new labor agreement with the borough's police officers.
Borough Manager Tim Evans reported at council's regular Tuesday meeting that members of the police bargaining unit recently ratified the new contract. Council will review the tentative pact with its labor consultant, John Reilly, before voting on the document Thursday. Borough officials initially planned to hold the special meeting on Wednesday but later moved the session to Thursday.
Evans declined to disclose terms of the agreement prior to council taking formal action. He noted that wages and medical coverage were major issues involved in the negotiations.
The agreement covers two full-time police officers and six part-timers, who are represented by the Teamsters. The officers have continued to work under the terms of a previous agreement that expired at the end of 2011.
In an unrelated police item, Police Chief Michael Allman told council that at least one unwelcome symptom of illicit drug activity — discarded hypodermic needles strewn along borough streets —appears to be on the decline.
Earlier in the year, Allman noted, borough officers had been picking up and disposing of the needles about every other day. But, he added, the last time they had to do so was on Aug. 2.
Concern about the syringes was one of the issues that helped galvanize interest in reactivating the borough's Neighborhood Watch program. Some volunteers marked locations where needles were spotted and reported them to police.
Evans also reported on problems with the railroad crossing and storm drains on East Market Street.
PennDOT closed the crossing last weekend while Norfolk Southern Railroad crews worked to address uneven surfaces that had resulted in a rough ride for motorists traveling on Market.
But the repair, instead of resulting in a smoother surface, created what amounts to a large speed bump for drivers. Traffic cones and signs were quickly installed to alert motorists approaching the crossing.
“Coming east, it's a sudden drop,” Evans noted.
He said PennDOT surveyors would work with Norfolk Southern to solve the problem at the crossing.
“PennDOT has been very helpful,” he said. “Hopefully, by the end of next week it will be fixed properly.”
Further east from the crossing, Evans said, the borough is working to determine why storm drains in the vicinity of Jack Ross' auto business aren't functioning properly.
Evans explained a drain on the south side of the street directs water to an inlet on the north side, where the water is supposed to exit through a pipe. Instead, he said, water has been gathering in the inlet until it backs up.
He said a camera would be used to explore inside the pipe in an effort to identify the cause of the problem.
Executive Director Leann Chaney reported that the Blairsville Community Development Authority is on track for finishing 2013 within its budget. Responding to a question from council member Carolyn Smith, Chaney reported that the authority so far has spent $83,843 of the $128,000 it budgeted for 2013 expenditures — leaving a little over $44,000 to see it through the remaining two months of the year.
The BCDA is charged with administering state Elm Street funds Blairsville has received for improving targeted residential areas of the borough. That includes money that is available to help property owners complete facade improvements.
Under the current round of funding, Chaney reported, 14 facade applications have been approved. With the $25,000 remaining, she estimated, the authority should be able to assist with about five additional facade projects.
In September, the BCDA board of directors took action to simplify the facade application process. Instead of providing two contractor estimates of project costs, applicants now need provide just one contractor estimate.
As approved by state officials, the Elm Street program currently is limited to residential areas lying west of the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks that run through the borough.
Chaney said the BCDA has applied more than once to request expansion of the program boundaries to include other borough neighborhoods. She said the authority is working to compile additional information the state Department of Community and Economic Development has requested as it considers the most recent request for an Elm Street expansion.
Council accepted the resignation of one of its members, Jim Mollo, from a seat on the BCDA board. No reason was cited for Mollo's decision to step down from the appointed authority post.
Chaney, who also serves on the borough shade tree commission, noted that group is seeking renewal of Blairsville's designation as a “Tree City USA” for the third year. She explained having the designation is a plus when applying for related grants.
Halloween events slated
Mayor Joseph Caugherty announced that trick-or-treating in Blairsville will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 27. He asked those residents who wish to distribute treats to turn on their porch lights. He also urged motorists to stay alert for young pedestrians during the event and noted that police will conduct extra patrols.
The Blairsville Volunteer Fire Department will sponsor its annual Halloween parade at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 on West Market Street in the vicinity of the bandstand. Participants may register at Blairsville Pharmacy.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.