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Sharpsburg holds line on taxes, targets blighted properties

| Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, 4:06 p.m.
Submitted

Sharpsburg is projected to hold its tax rate steady while focusing its 2019 budget on fighting blight and improving the borough.

The proposed budget keeps property taxes at 7.15 mills, and Borough Manager Bill Rossey said much of it will focus on the demolition of more blighted properties, street paving, catch basin repairs and sewer improvements.

At the forefront of the plan is the continued fight against vacant and blighted properties, which has been a top priority for Sharpsburg and Mayor Matthew Rudzki for several years.

“This puts less stress on borough resources and adds value to the tax rolls,” Rudzki said. “That allows us to focus on other beautification or infrastructure projects.”

In just four years, the number of blighted properties in town have reduced drastically— from more than 100 to less than 20— with the help of local programs and grants.

Council most recently reached out to the community for help, as the borough begins the process of acquiring a condemned and demolished property on the corner of 13th and Middle streets.

“Blank-slate space is very limited in Sharpsburg, and when it becomes available, residents should have input in guiding the decision,” Rudzki said.

Rudzki took to Facebook to reach out to the community. Nearly 50 community members responded immediately. Many lobbied for green space, suggesting a community garden or simply more trees, while others prompted the idea for a dog park.

“Considering the importance of becoming self-sustainable makes the most sense to me,” commented resident Pamela Bruno.

“It’s right by Kennedy field, which is a spot for kids,” followed Brian Kozera. “Putting a fun factor in like a skate park or a dog park seems like a good idea, as well.”

While Council President Brittany Reno agrees the space should be turned into some sort of green space, she believes a dog park would be a good alignment to the needs and opportunities of the community.

“I get so many inquires about dog parks here, and right now we have no parks where dogs are allowed,” Reno said. “So many people have dogs, but no yards, so I think it’s something we should very seriously consider.”

Before a decision can be made, the borough must go through Allegheny County’s Vacant Property Recovery Program to acquire the piece of land.

The borough also will choose three more blighted properties for demolition funded from Allegheny County Community Development Block Grant program. In June, the program awarded Shaprsburg with a $55,000 grant to remove hazardous structures from the neighborhood, making way for future development.

Council will vote on the proposed budget at the Dec. 27 meeting in council chambers.

Christine Manganas is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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