BLAIRSVILLE — Borough council approved two requests Tuesday from the Blairsville Community Development Authority on projects designed to enhance commerce.
Council approved a request from BCDA Executive Director Leann Chaney to pursue funding through the state Department of Community & Economic Development that would help local developers in attracting a grocery store in the community. The request was approved 5-0, with council member Mary Ugoletti not present for the vote.
Chaney asked council to consider having the borough apply for the funding for the grant, which is through the Keystone Communities Development Grant program.
If the DCED approves the funding, the grant would come to the borough and be loaned to a private developer, who would have to repay it to a revolving loan fund that the borough would manage, Chaney said. That funding would then be available to loan for future projects, with council approval. The revolving loan fund currently has $23,000 from a past grant-to-loan project.
“It generates some funding that we can keep loaning out and getting paid back, but we make a little on the interest,” Chaney said.
She said if council was interested, the BCDA would be able to begin efforts by holding a public meeting to give residents a chance to discuss the project and its impact and to prepare a resolution for adoption at a later meeting.
The borough can apply for up to $500,000 or 30 percent of the project’s cost, whichever is less, Chaney said. She said the BCDA would look into what amount it would need for the borough to apply for.
Council President Pro-tem Carolyn Smith voiced caution with potential borrowers who may pose a risk.
“I think we should watch who we give it to because if they go defunct, we’re out,” she said.
Chaney said the DCED has guidelines and requirements such as documentation on business history, site specifics and benefit to the community, as well as documentation from the borough evidencing the developer’s ability to pay back the loan.
The DCED accepts applications on a rolling basis, she said, and “there’s really no targeted announcement date” on when she’ll receive word on whether or not the application was approved.
Chaney said she thinks it would be “a good opportunity” for the borough.
“We would love to have a grocery store,” she said, adding that if that didn’t work out, “we could always go back for something else.”
Council also voted 5-1 on Chaney’s request for council to pledge $5,000 in matching funds from its 2014 budget to DCED and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for engineering and design of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Route 22. Smith voted against the motion.
The estimate for the engineering and design is $360,000, Chaney said. She said the BCDA is looking to help Indiana County with raising the matching funds. The county has applied for up to $180,000 through the DCED and $180,000 through the DCNR, “but they are going to be looking for a local match” from various entities interested in the bridge project.
Indiana County Parks and Trails has contributed $10,000 out of its annual budget and $5,000 has been matched by Residents Advocating Good Environment, Chaney said. Indiana County Parks and Trails was able to contribute the funds through Act 13 Marcellus Shale money, to be used toward equipment but not salaries, so it’s going toward engineering for the trail.
The BCDA has approached Burrell Township and is working with them, as the project is located in that municipality, she said.
The applications have been submitted already, she said, but the BCDA is “continuing this effort to raise money.”
“The more that can be contributed, the more competitive those two applications will be,” she said.
A commitment letter from the borough would go to the state, but the funding from the borough wouldn’t be needed until 2014, she said.
Chaney said some of the benefits of the bridge to Blairsville Borough include economic development through increased access to downtown businesses, more attractive residential sighting and more interest in living in the borough. It would also extend the Hoodlebug and Ghost Town trails into the borough, and would address safety observations that were identified in a previous study on Route 22.
In other matters, council approved a proposal from police Chief Michael Allman to purchase a new police vehicle for $24,950 through a state bid through Tri-Star Motors.
The Ford Expedition would be purchased after three years of leasing for $1.
Allman submitted the proposal because two of the borough’s three cruisers are in bad shape. He said he wants to get into a rotation where the same car isn’t being used every day and building up mileage.
Council hired Ligonier Construction for $33,155 for road paving projects for several streets. The bid was one out of six submitted to council.
Council also approved a motion for $975 plus UPS shipping to purchase a new tic-tac-toe board for the playground after it was discovered damaged recently.
The mayor proclaimed April 26 as Arbor Day in Blairsville.
The annual community cleanup day will be held Saturday, April 27. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and cleanup starts at 9. Volunteers will meet in front of the BCDA office.
Sheetz will provide lunch. The first 100 participants will get a free T-shirt, and minimum contributions of $25 will be accepted to have names printed on the back. Quite a few people are already committed, with WyoTech sending roughly 50 students to help out.
Anyone interested in volunteering or providing supplies can contact the BCDA office at (724) 459-8588.