The Indiana County commissioners Wednesday approved a pilot program intended to help income-eligible senior home owners make critical house repairs like replacing nonworking furnaces and leaking roofs.
Under the pilot program, the Indiana County Area Agency on Aging and the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development will partner to make money available from the Pennsylvania Lottery for home repairs for income-eligible homeowners age 60 or older.
James McQuown, executive director of the agency on aging, said details on how much money will be available for the repair program won’t be known until Monday. Having the county’s agency on aging partner with the county’s planning office made sense because the planning office already has the delivery system in place and has a waiting list of homeowners badly needing the repairs.
LuAnn Zak, deputy director of community development and housing in the county planning office, said there are residents of Indiana County who have lived in their homes for an entire year without a working furnace and without needed roof repairs because they don’t have the money to buy a new furnace or to pay for the repair work.
In another housing-related item, Zak invited members of the public to give their input on the county’s housing stock — its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, needs and threats.
The input is needed to help develop a housing plan for the county aimed at providing affordable and accessible housing at a time when there have been reductions in state and federal funding for emergency shelter, rental assistance and other supportive housing services.
The public input meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the CareerLink building, 300 Indian Springs Road, White Township.
The commissioners Wednesday also approved a $400,000 loan from the county’s Revolving Loan Fund to the Indiana County Development Corporation to partially fund the purchase of the industrial/manufacturing property near Blairsville that was occupied by the Dlubak Corporation, a maker of architectural glass and blast-resistant glass for combat vehicles.
Colorado-based Grey Mountain Partners Monday purchased the assets of bankrupt Dlubak for $3.25 million.
Commission chairman Rodney Ruddock praised the county planning office staff for working tirelessly to facilitate the purchase and he thanked the ICDC leadership for its willingness to take on ownership of the building, with the prospect of retaining jobs for the 85 families that were supported by employment at Dlubak.
Commissioner Patricia Evanko also thanked the ICDC for tackling economic development projects in all parts of the county.
And in another on-going economic development effort, the commissioners approved resolutions creating about 38 more acres of Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone in the county. The resolution authorizes tax exemptions, deductions, abatements and credits for a 10-year period in order to foster economic opportunities, stimulate industrial, commercial and residential improvements, and prevent infrastructure deterioration.
The acreage is on three sites: The former PolyVision property, now Dixonville Commons, in Green Township; the former Gorell Enterprises manufacturing plant in White Township; and the former Bi-Lo grocery store building in Blairsville.
Byron Stauffer, executive director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said the school boards and the municipalities with jurisdiction over the three locations — with the exception of the Green Township supervisors — have passed resolutions favoring the KOEZ designations.
The applications for KOEZ status next need approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.
Evanko said a “good-faith effort” is being made by county and Blairsville Borough officials and the Blairsville school board to recruit a new grocery store to the vacant site in Blairsville.
Stauffer noted that the municipal leaders and school directors voting for KOEZ designation cannot control the private sector and have no control over what types of business may move into the locations if they are approved as KOEZ sites.
The commissioners also reminded county residents the courthouse will be closed Oct. 14 in observance of Columbus Day, and said the dates of next month’s commissioners’ meetings have been changed to Oct. 16 and 30.