Blairsville Borough

Blairsville Borough Council shifted into the next phase of adopting a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) ordinance Tuesday by voting to advertise for a public comment hearing.

The public comment hearing, which is required by law for council to adopt the ordinance, will take place at 5 p.m. during Blairsville Council’s next regular meeting. During the public comment portion of the adoption process, members of the community can address the council with concerns and give feedback on how to improve the ordinance.

“(We) just want to get feedback from the public if there’s any objections to it, if there’s anything we didn’t think of,” said council president John Bertolino.

Blairsville Borough Council unanimously approved advertising a public comment hearing for the LERTA ordinance.

Bertolino said the council will use that feedback to determine whether to move forward with the drafted LERTA ordinance or revise it.

“(After public comment), we can either vote to approve it without changes, vote to approve it with changes or vote not to approve it,” Bertolino said.

Council members floated the idea of adopting a LERTA ordinance during a regular council meeting in late May. The LERTA ordinance that was subsequently drafted mirrors River Valley’s and Burrell Township’s ordinances, according to council, with one key difference — to be eligible for LERTA tax abatements, the property must undergo $50,000 in improvements.

“The (LERTA ordinance) provides tax abatements for individuals and businesses who add value to their property, whether it be through new construction, remodeling or whatever,” said Michael Baker, council manager and secretary. “Instead of having to pay 100 percent of the real estate tax right from the very beginning, the ordinance would allow that to be phased in over a 10-year period.”

Bertolino said the current LERTA draft incorporates at $50,000 threshold to focus less on individual property owners and more on commercial property. But any building that undergoes improvements that raise the assessed property value by $50,000 would be eligible.

In other news Tuesday, council members approved a $237,983 grant application to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for a storm water drainage project along East Campbell Street.

“We are getting flooding that is backing up into the (St. Simon and Jude) Catholic Church and causing damage to their property,” Bertolino said.

The grant could be awarded by late October or early November, according to council engineer Michael Meyer.

“It’s a decent grant that we’re writing,” Meyer said. “It’s for flood mitigation, and there’s extreme flooding there, so it has a good chance (at being awarded).”

Also Tuesday:

• Council members approved hiring Clint McChesney, a retired state trooper, as a part-time police officer for Blairsville Borough.

• Blairsville Mayor Ronald Evanko swore in a chaplain corps to assist firefighters and police officers with crises and critical incidents.

• Council members approved accepting a construction quote of $4,750 by Pynos Construction to repair water damage in the community center.

• Council members discussed stricter code enforcement in the borough to increase code compliance.

• Blairsville police will be increasing enforcement on Enterprise Drive for one-way violations.

• Council members discussed the need to look into more efficient ways for community members to dispose of grass clippings, sticks and leaves.