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Armstrong County sells Simpson Bridge to Washington Twp. couple

| Friday, July 8, 2011

KITTANNING — Armstrong County officials have sold an old bridge to a Washington Township couple who operate a campground nearby.

Robert and Gabriella Offutt took possession of the former county-owned Simpson Bridge that crosses Huling Run in the northernmost part of Washington Township for $1 during a public meeting yesterday. The small private campground of six or seven camps is on both sides of the creek.

County officials said the bridge, built in 1925, was inspected as part of the county's bridge maintenance program for its 34 owned bridges and repairs were made. However, PennDOT determined additional repairs were needed that county officials deemed to be costly for the amount of use of the bridge and they agreed to close and abandon it.

The bridge had become burdensome to the county and is no longer necessary for public travel due to its low traffic volume, officials said.

"This is a workable solution," said Commissioner Jim Scahill. "I admire the Offutts for standing up to take ownership."

Commissioners approved an ordinance abandoning the bridge and approved its sale.

The bridge is transferred to the Offutts and its sale transfers liability to them for its private use, according to county documents.

"We'll have some happy campers," said Gabriella Offutt.

In related business, the commissioners approved the 2011 bridge maintenance contract for about $72,000 with Thornbury Inc. of West Sunbury, which includes the removal of the Buttermilk Falls Bridge on Cowanshannock Creek in Rayburn. That bridge has been closed since the 1970s, officials said.

LERTA

In other county business, the commissioners approved a commercial Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) tax abatement designation for South Buffalo for a portion of the Northpointe Industrial Park.

The state's Act 76, or LERTA, authorizes taxing bodies to provide abatements.

The program applies abatements to new construction and renovations made to existing buildings. It does not decrease any property taxes already assessed. Taxes are phased in over 10 years. The schedule is 100 percent abated in the first year and the tax abatement decreases by 10 percent each year until the 11th year, when the full tax is assessed.

The township and the Armstrong School District have approved the abatements.

It is the 10th commercial LERTA approved in the county and includes those in Apollo, Leechburg, Freeport, West Franklin, Kittanning, Ford City, Elderton, Parks and an other area in South Buffalo. There are four residential LERTAs in the county — in Ford Cliff, Ford City, Kittanning and West Franklin.

Rich Palilla, county Planning and Development executive director,, said there are companies in Northpointe that want to expand.

"It could mean additional job creation," said Commissioner Patty Kirkpatrick.

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