BURRELL TOWNSHIP: Supervisors approve liquor license transfer
BLACK LICK — The Sheetz convenience store chain has moved a step closer to stocking beer in the coolers at its outlet along Route 22 east of Blairsville.
The Burrell Township board of supervisors voted Wednesday to approve Sheetz’s request to transfer an idle liquor license from Glen Campbell to the township, clearing the way for Sheetz to seek final approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Supervisors Larry Henry and Anthony Distefano signed a resolution for the transfer on the third attempt at a vote. Supervisor John Shields was absent from the meeting.
Henry’s initial motion to approve the transfer failed when Distefano declined to offer a second. Distefano kept the floor almost 15 minutes, sounding out the reasons that the transfer should be denied — and approved.
“I don’t think this is a decision that local municipalities should have to make,” Distefano began. “If this is the way the Legislature wants to go, then they should come out and have the final say. Every argument I’ve heard about increasing competition and convenience … is not a good argument, because they’ve certainly done neither with their own liquor system.
“My initial reaction is that the average person doesn’t care what we do. People won’t drink more or less beer if Sheetz sells beer or doesn’t sell beer.”
Distefano said the township has a track record of allowing intermunicipal transfers and has long been over the quota for licenses. Because the township has more than 1 license per 3,000 residents, the PLCB required the township to conduct a hearing to take public input on the request. A handful of local license holders testified at a hearing on April 5 that they opposed the additional competition.
Distefano said the state liquor law provided no grounds to deny a license because of competition, but he said he was interested in
supporting and protecting local small businesses.
“The Legislature and the governor don’t allow that. They have taken that luxury away from us,” he said.
Distefano also said he disagrees with the concept of selling alcohol and gasoline at the same location, which had been banned until recently by the liquor laws.
Distefano said the vote could be considered a precedent: denial would close the door to future license transfers for small package shops and large restaurants such as Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s.
“We would be closing out the mom-and-pops, the midlevel investors and big businesses,” he said. “This has been on my mind every day. It would be a big mistake to deny this request and then consider others as they come in. It would be pretty clear that we’re discriminating against one applicant over another.”
Distefano wouldn’t second Henry’s motion, then moved to deny the transfer. Henry stayed silent.
Then pointing out that the township was near or past a 45-day deadline to act on Sheetz’s request, Distefano said the board must make a decision: “This is what we’re elected to do.”
Henry repeated his motion to approve, Distefano seconded it — “I have no other choice,” he said — and both voted in favor.
“You guys have mulled this over and looked at it from every possible angle, more so than any other board of supervisors I’ve dealt with,” said Sheetz’s attorney, Mark Kozar, who said he has represented the company in hundreds of license transfers. “I appreciate you working so hard. You have done a service for your community.”
Sheetz has two other pending liquor license transfers under consideration in the county.
A request to move a license from Creekside to Center Township has been tied up in a court appeal since July when the township supervisors denied the request. A de novo court hearing, the equivalent of the original municipal hearing to take public comment, is scheduled for May 15 before Judge Thomas Bianco.
Another request to transfer a license from East Wheatfield Township to Clymer remains under review.
In other business, the supervisors:
• Approved an update to the township’s Act 537 Sewage Facilities Plan to include findings of an engineering study of options for upgrades to the Black Lick wastewater treatment plant.
The update allows Burrell Township Sewage Authority to continue the design for an estimated $9.7 million modernization of the 1980s vintage plant. The project calls for virtually replacing the entire facility and elevating the equipment and storage tanks above the revised flood plain at the sewage plant site by May 2020.
George Rowley, vice president of the sewage authority board, said the authority has begun filing applications for federal and state grants and loans to finance the project.
Outside funding is pivotal, Rowley said.
“If we don’t get the funds to get (monthly service bills) down to where it’s feasible, we’re not going to do it,” Rowley told the supervisors. “We want to keep it around $40, not at $80 or $90.”
Henry said the updated plan and new engineering study would position the authority to get money for the project.
“Having a shovel-ready plan puts you first in line for grants,” he said.
• Enjoyed a competitive round of bidding from 13 companies that offered prices on various road maintenance and treatment materials for this year. The supervisors approved supply agreements with Compass Minerals, of Overland Park, Kan., for road salt; Hanson Corporation, of Connellsville, Fayette County, for various supplies of stones; Ligonier Stone & Lime Inc., of Latrobe, for antiskid material; Russell Standard Corporation, of Mars, Butler County, for patching material; Derry Construction Company, of Latrobe, for asphalt; Suit-Kote, of Bentleyville, Washington County, for patching materials; and David Trucking, of Burrell Township, for hauling materials from the suppliers to the township.
• Were notified by Peoples Gas that the company has “put on hold for the foreseeable future” any plans to extend natural gas utility service to neighborhoods in the township. Peoples last year polled township homeowners’ interest in having gas service, by way of a survey distributed with local sewage service bills, but didn’t mention the survey findings in its letter to the township.
• Learned from Burrell Township Library director Jen Van Hannak that the library will introduce the “Crafternoon” program. Children and adults in the township are invited to take part in craft activities from 2 to 4 p.m. every Friday at the library beginning April 28.
• Reminded residents of the annual spring cleanup set for 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 28 and 29. Dumpsters will be stationed at the township building, with workers on site to monitor the trash and help when needed.
The township charges a small fee for tires and takes most other rubbish at no charge, but cannot accept televisions, computers or other technology products. Residents will be directed to take those to the Indiana County Solid Waste Authority recycling center along Route 119 between Homer City and Indiana.