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INDIANA COUNTY: Harvesting of trees near runway OK'd

by on March 27, 2014 11:00 AM

An undetermined number of trees on Indiana County Airport property will be harvested to eliminate obstructions and allow the airport runways to be used again in both directions at night.

The county commissioners Wednesday agreed to have Babyak Forestry Services, of Indiana, prepare an estimate of the value of trees that need to be removed and arrange bidding by lumbering companies to cut the trees.

Tom Robertson, airport manager, said the state’s Bureau of Aviation ruled pilots cannot land from east to west at the airport during hours of darkness because of the danger of trees to the sides of the runway and in some locations near the ends of the runways. Robertson said that under new state safety rules the runway must be the highest feature for 250 feet to either side of the centerline of the runway, and currently some trees are standing within that boundary.

Babyak will receive 10 percent of the value of the hardwood trees that are cut and 15 percent of the value of the pulp wood as payment for performing the estimate and arranging the bidding for harvesting.

In another airport-related item, the commissioners agreed to pledge state Regional Capital Assistance Program funds as collateral for a $1.6 million bridge loan from S&T Bank to the Indiana County Airport Authority to help pay for recent improvements at the airport.

Commission Chairman Rodney Ruddock said the financing arrangement represents the completion of the major airport enhancements. The next step, he said, is to revisit the business plan for the airport to encourage development there and take full advantage of the improvements.

The commissioners also approved a grant application for $271,335 to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Michael Hodak, the county’s chief probation officer, said the grant money in part supports the county’s Drug Treatment Court and the program that allows some people to serve a sentence under house arrest with electronic monitoring.

Ruddock said Wednesday he’s encouraged by progress the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is making toward establishing a community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) for military veterans in Indiana County.

Friday was the deadline for vendors to submit plans for a CBOC in the county, including details on where a clinic would be located, what services would be offered and at what cost to the VA. Ruddock said a visitation team from the Department of Veterans Affairs will soon inspect sites proposed for the clinic, including the county-owned Corporate Campus and the 119 Professional Center, both in White Township.

A local CBOC will furnish primary care, basic medical laboratory services and dispense medications to eligible veterans and save many of them time-consuming trips to VA medical facilities in Altoona, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. For many vets it will not, however, eliminate the need to travel to VA hospitals or clinics that offer a wider range of medical services.

Ruddock has said he’s optimistic a local CBOC may be open by late fall.

The commissioners approved three polling place changes for the May 20 primary election:

• In the Conemaugh 3 precinct, voters will now cast ballots at the Smith Bus Garage, 220 10th St., Saltsburg, instead of the previous polling site at Saltsburg Senior High School.

• In Marion Center, the polling place has been moved from the Marion Center Community Park to the Presbyterian Church of Marion, 206 High St.

• And in Montgomery Township, voters will now cast ballots at the Montgomery Township building, 1220 Cush Creek Road, rather than at the Hillsdale Citizens’ Ambulance Service building.

Indiana County chief clerk Robin Maryai reminded county residents that March 31 is the first day to apply for absentee ballots for the spring primary and May 13 will be the last day to apply. Applications may be made in the Voter Registration Office.

In other action, the commissioners:

• Agreed to enter into a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for the 2013 Community Development Block Grant for the county and its three entitlement communities of Burrell and Center townships and Indiana Borough. The 2013 amount is an increase of about $4,000 over the 2012 CDBG funding level, but still far below the amount the county and its entitlement communities received in 2011, according to LuAnn Zak, deputy director of community development and housing in the county planning and development office.

• Accepted the low bid of $22,708 from New Enterprise Stone and Lime, of New Enterprise, to seal the road at Hemlock Lake Park.

• Proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, Fair Housing Month and National Donate Life Month in the county. Commissioner Michael Baker, the county’s former coroner, will speak at a noon ceremony April 4 on the courthouse steps to encourage people to volunteer to become organ, tissue and cornea donors.

• Proclaimed April 7-11 as Week of the Young Child in the county.

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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