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Blairsville OKs burning ordinance

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, July 19, 2012, 5:13 p.m.

BLAIRSVILLE -- Borough council on Tuesday approved a revised burning ordinance that will allow fewer days for outdoor burning than was included in a version advertised last month.

After a debate among those who preferred more or less days for burning yard waste and other approved material, council voted to allow such burning from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday and Saturday of each month from December through September.

During the two months of October and November, when borough officials noted homeowners are challenged with the task of disposing of fallen leaves, burning will be allowed on every Tuesday and Saturday.

The version of the ordinance advertised last month would have allowed burning on the second and fourth Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of all months.

"I think we're going too many days and too long," council member Ron Evanko said of the previously proposed schedule of three days per week. He expressed concern about the effect smoke from outdoor burning can have on those with respiratory problems.

Councilman Jim Mollo suggested that outdoor burning could be eliminated if the borough had a truck that could vacuum up fallen leaves.

While the revised ordinance sets forth requirements for burning containers, or burn barrels, borough manager Tim Evans clarified that a barrel is not necessary to dispose of yard waste. A pile of such material can be burned on the ground, he said, if the fire is constantly monitored by an adult.

Council added wording to emphasize that, when burning is completed, fires must be doused until they are completely extinguished. Evans also pointed out that green leaves and twigs cannot be burned.

The ordinance states that burn barrels are not to be used or stored within 25 feet of any structure or within 20 feet of any property line or sidewalk. Council added language noting that a homeowner may use a burn barrel at the center line of his property if the lot is too small to comply with the 20-foot setback requirement.

Those who violate the burning ordinance face a potential fine of $75 for a second offense, $150 for a third offense and $500 for an additional offense.

Evans said the revised ordinance is effective immediately, but a grace period will be provided prior to enforcement.

Council signed a formal contract with the Blairsville-based 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Company, which has agreed to develop the long-awaited Blairsville River Trail -- a hiking and biking loop that will follow along the Conemaugh River, through U.S. Army Corps property, and will connect with the downtown business district.

The 12th R.E.C. has subcontracted the work to Gregori Construction and Engineering of Sarver and has agreed not to exceed the $436,690 in construction funding the borough has available for the project.

Additional money has been spent on planning and preparation for the trail. All together, project funding includes $281,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $150,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and $10,000 each from the Friends of Blairsville Parks and Recreation Foundation and the Arnold Palmer Foundation, with additional costs covered by local in-kind services.

According to Evans, much of the 25-foot-wide trail will feature a base of crushed limestone. But, he said a harder surface may be needed on a section that will be particularly vulnerable to flooding on the Conemaugh. "There's a pinch point where the river is tighter and water moves quicker," he explained.

Groundbreaking for the trail project was to have been observed during a town celebration Thursday night. Evans said the contractor has until April of next year to complete the work.

Thursday's event also celebrated the beginning of demolition of vacant properties along West Market Street to clear the way for proposed development of market-rate housing. That Blairsville Riverfront Village project is being pursued by the borough-created Blairsville Community Development Authority, which owns the former site of the Vale Tech automotive school.

BCDA board member Ed Smith told council that demolition has begun with a building located near the Hebron Lutheran Church on North Liberty Street.

Contractor Pittsburgh Demolition Inc. is slated to raze a total of nine buildings for the project at a cost of $194,000. That includes portions of the former Conemaugh Terrace apartments, which are now vacant.

The BCDA has an agreement to develop new housing in the area with partner company Fourth River Development of Pittsburgh. Smith said the company want to begin with initial development of four housing units.

Smith reported that, since last year, the BCDA?has reduced its average monthly operating cost from $10,500 to $7,013. He said the authority is considering reducing that amount further by trimming its office hours and by moving its office into a portion of the former Conemaugh Terrace, thus eliminating monthly rent payments of $2,300.

He said the authority also is working on a plan to repay its outstanding loans, currently totaling $421,122.42.

In a related matter, council approved a resolution authorizing application to DCED for $100,000. Evans explained that funding would pay for operation of the fourth and fifth year of the borough's Elm Street program, which seeks to improve targeted residential areas. That program is managed by the BCDA.

Council, which last month agreed to search for a police chief, meanwhile shored up its police department by hiring David Romagnoli as a part-time officer. According to Mayor Joe Caugherty, that gives the department a current complement of two full-time officers and eight part-timers.

Evans said, due to budgetary concerns, the borough likely would keep its summer paving program at a cost of no more than $40,000. He said he and other borough officials were waiting to meeting with representatives of Quaker Sales, which was approved as the paving contractor.

Streets that would receive priority include Grandview Avenue, Walnut Hill Road and portion of Iron Alley and West North Avenue. Portions of West Ranson Avenue and East Brown and East Burrell streets likely will be held over for a future paving program.

"I feel we're making streets a minority in our budget," council member Carolyn Smith protested.

DeWayne Dills, who resides along the east berm of South Liberty Street, attended Tuesday's meeting to request that the borough switch on-street parking from the east berm to the west berm of the street. He and his wife, Peggy, have complained about trouble exiting their drive due to vehicles parked nearby.

Evans has recommended that the borough reactivate its dormant parking authority to review possible solutions for that complaint and similar problem areas in town.

He said council has received letters from five individuals who have expressed interest in serving on the parking panel: Caugherty, DeWayne and Peggy Dills, Mike Gwinn and Joe Nease. But borough officials were checking to see if the panel should have five members or just three.

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