Public’s concerns, suggestions sought to shape future of 3 communities
People who live, work and do business in Tarentum, Brackenridge and Harrison have a chance to tell local officials how they’d like to see the communities improved over the next decade.
The two boroughs and township are working together on a new comprehensive plan. Part of the more than yearlong process includes an open house, where residents and business owners can add their thoughts and opinions.
The meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. June 3 at the Salvation Army, 917 Brackenridge Ave., Brackenridge. People can arrive at any time and stay as long as they’d like.
“It’s not going to be a lecture,” Harrison Commissioner Robin Bergstrom said. “We want their input so they can help us shape the future of the communities.”
It’s not limited to those who live in the communities. Anyone with a connection, such as if they work or own a business in one, is welcome to stop in.
“We want to hear what people have to say,” Brackenridge Councilman Dino Lopreiato said. “It only takes one good idea that can turn things around. That idea might be out there.”
A questionnaire is available online. Paper copies are available at each municipal building and at the Community Library of Allegheny Valley branches in Harrison and Tarentum.
The effort’s $90,000 cost is being covered by a $50,000 grant from Allegheny County Economic Development, with the remaining $40,000 split among the two boroughs and township based on their populations — about $23,000 from Harrison, almost $10,000 from Tarentum and about $7,000 from Brackenridge.
Pashek+MTR, a planning firm based in Pittsburgh’s North Side, is helping the communities develop the plan. It’s being led by a 16-member steering committee made up of volunteers from all three municipalities.
The goal is to create a long-term plan for the communities, said Elaine Kramer, a planner and landscape designer with Pashek+MTR.
“We hope the final result is positive changes in the community people can see,” she said.
A draft is expected by March, and the communities could adopt it June 2020, Bergstrom said.
It got started in February after Harrison approached Tarentum and Brackenridge officials, she said.
“Our long-term comprehensive plan was out of date. It needed updated,” Bergstrom said. “What we wanted to do was put together a road map to determine where we want to go and how we’re going to get there in the next five to 10 years.”
The township’s last plan, done in 2009, was 75 pages, over an inch thick — and nothing really came from it, Bergstrom said. That’s not what they want this time.
“We want a focused, implementable plan that has community input, because it’s going to shape our future,” she said.
Kramer said that’s what her firm focuses on in putting comprehensive plans together — being actually useful and rooted in citizen input.
“Everyone wants to live in a place that is improving rather than deteriorating. Everyone wants to live in a place where they can enjoy life, have nice housing and can enjoy economic development or other goals the community might have,” she said. “Our hope is to find out what’s most important to the residents of Harrison, Tarentum and Brackenridge, ask them what they want to work on and what they want their communities’ priorities to be, and then work on creating strategies they can bite off one bit at a time to work toward those goals.”
Fixing infrastructure, combating blight and attracting business are among the goals of all three communities, Tarentum Councilwoman Lou Ann Homa said.
Homa is hoping people will attend the open house to share their concerns and suggestions.
“We need to get the younger people out. We need to try to get the seniors out, too,” she said. “We need suggestions.”
Getting Brackenridge on board was important to bridge the gap between Tarentum and Harrison, Lopreiato said.
“We’re hoping we can make some kind of plan that is implementable,” Lopreiato said. “We don’t want to just say we want to fix roads or we want to eliminate blight. We want to be more specific.
“We want to secure funds so we can actually meet these goals instead of making a plan and letting it sit on a shelf. We want to implement them.”
Having the plan will help with getting grants, Homa said.
“If they know you have a plan for your grant money, it’s easier to obtain it,” she said.
The three communities face common issues, so getting together to address them makes sense, Bergstrom said.
“If we join forces on solving some of the common issues we have, on some of the areas that need improved, we can solve them together and have a larger impact,” she said. “It may lead to other opportunities where we can collaborate with each other.”
Homa said working together is a “fantastic” idea.
“It helps with the cost of the whole program,” she said. “It also helps to bounce ideas off the other communities.”
While the three municipalities work together in some ways, Lopreiato said this is the first time, at least since he’s been a councilman, that they’ve tried to write any kind of plan together.
“We really should try to work together. It only helps us,” he said. “There’s no moats around our communities.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .