Blairsville considers one-way traffic on steep section of East Brown Street
Blairsville's February snow has melted away, but borough officials still have to contend with some issues related to the recent winter storms.
The borough is considering making the traffic pattern on the section of East Brown Street between Grandview Avenue and Brady Street one-way westbound, or downhill, to address wintertime concerns about on-street parking.
Leann Nicholson, who lives on the steep section of East Brown, told borough council at its Feb. 18 meeting that her family members park their vehicles facing downhill, against traffic, during winter weather to avoid the difficult task of pulling away uphill over snow and ice.
According to Nicholson, borough police in the past had not ticketed her family's vehicles for being parked facing against traffic, but this year they received tickets. She asked if a borough ordinance could be amended to allow the unorthodox parking arrangement.
Instead, borough officials suggested changing traffic on the street from two-way to one-way westbound. Then, Police Chief Michael H. Allman noted, vehicles could park facing downhill on both sides of the street.
“I think it would be great,” Nicholson said of the idea.
When asked by council, she reported that traffic typically travels downhill on the street following games at the nearby Blairsville High School football stadium along Grandview.
Borough manager Tim Evans noted the borough parking authority had tabled making a recommendation about parking on East Brown until council could discuss the issue, Now, he said, “We need to go back to the parking authority and hash this out.”
Evans told council the demands of frequently clearing snow from borough streets this past month took a toll on the borough's 2003 five-ton truck, and he suggested purchasing a new one.
“We're throwing money down the drain” trying to keep the truck in operation, Evans said, noting the recent bill for maintaining the vehicle totaled about $5,000.
“It's given us nothing but trouble,” including repeated “blown belts,” he said.
To keep up with the snow, he said, the borough placed a plow on a Blairsville Municipal Authority truck.
“We can use a portion of our liquid fuels fund to buy a truck,” Evans said, referring to money local municipalities receive annually through the state's gasoline tax.
He suggested purchasing a truck in the summer, putting $30,000 down toward an estimated price of up to $70,000.
With the end of winter not yet in sight, Evans told council the borough is about $15,000 over budget due to snow removal.
“We're hanging in there, but it's been close,” he said of the borough's supply of road salt. He noted the borough recently received a 100-ton shipment of salt and had another 100 tons on order.
For the winter season so far, he said, the borough has used 587 tons of salt, compared to 255 tons the previous year. Similarly, he said, costs have doubled for employee overtime and gasoline for trucks.
Mayor Ron Evanko thanked those residents who made an extra effort to help their neighbors shovel snow following the recent storms.
Council agreed to seek bids from potential buyers for two borough vehicles that have been sitting unused: a 1997 Ford Taurus and a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria. Evans noted the vehicles are needlessly adding to the borough's insurance premium.
Reporting on recent activities of the Blairsville Community Development Authority, Executive Director Leann Chaney said the authority received $980,000 from a previously approved state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant. Chaney said the money has been used to pay off outstanding debt and remaining funds will be used to cover costs as the authority moves forward with its proposed Blairsville Riverfront Village residential development along West Market Street.
According to Chaney, the remaining $20,000 of the grant is being retained by state officials until a contract audit is completed.
Chaney noted the authority has an application pending with the state Department of Community and Economic Development for an additional $200,000 grant that would assist with the Riverfront Village project. She said the BCDA has supplied additional information requested for the application and would provide matching funds if the grant is approved. The authority has received a proposal for architectural services that will be needed in the project. A proposal for civil engineering services was pending.
The BCDA manages the borough's Elm Street program, which provides funding to help with residential facade upgrades and other improvements in a targeted area covering much of the borough west of the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
Chaney reported that the DCED denied the BCDA's most recent proposal for expanding the Elm Street program to eastern sections of the borough. According to Chaney, in an e-mail message to the authority, state officials wrote: “The area that you are proposing is too large and would not conform to DCED's goals of targeting, leveraging and impact.”
Chaney said the BCDA intends to apply for a “Keystone Community” designation that would augment Blairsville's ongoing revitalization efforts after the borough completes the Elm Street program, which is entering its fifth and final year.
Chaney believes the entire borough could be eligible for inclusion in the Keystone Community program, which would offer the opportunity to apply for more facade funding. Also under that program, she said, the BCDA would “hope to create an environment where businesses and other organizations would be eligible to apply for a tax credit based on improvements made to property.”
Chaney noted the BCDA has changed the time of its monthly meetings, which now normally are held at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month. During November and December, the meetings will be held on the third Wednesday.
Chaney, who also functions as a grant writer for the borough, reported that her application for funding to assist with hiring of borough police officers was denied through the 2013 COPS Hiring Program. She was told that demand for the competitive funding exceeded the amount available,with only about 15 percent of applications approved. Allman said he intends to appeal the funding denial.
Council affirmed the election of Robert Watson and Patricia Lance to the Blairsville Public Library Board of Directors and the re-election to new three-year terms of Robert Ferguson and Joni Melnick.
Council member Ab Dettorre, who previously served on the borough civil service commission, agreed to reapply for a position on the three-member board. The commission currently is unable to take action, with Irv Lindsey the only sitting member.
Council acknowledged receipt of a letter from Lindsey seeking appointment to two other borough boards — the planning commission and the codes appeal board.
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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