INDIANA COUNTY: Property reassessments still on track, company reports
April 24, 2014 11:00 AM

Indiana County’s property reassessment that began last summer is proceeding well and is a little ahead of schedule.

Gene Porterfield, president of Evaluator Services and Technology Inc., the company performing the reassessment, told the county commissioners Wednesday that data collectors have visited 25,620 parcels, of the county’s total of approximately 46,000 parcels, and the data for more than 15,000 parcels have been entered in the post-fieldwork portion of the work.

Porterfield said 21 people are working on the reassessment, and the majority of them are data collectors and data entry personnel.

The assessment teams are now working in Blacklick and Pine townships and next will move into Young Township.

Porterfield said he appreciated the leadership and cooperation of the commissioners in performing the reassessment, and said the project is on track for a timely completion of the valuation of all property in the county by July 2015.

The commissioners Wednesday approved the purchase of equipment to upgrade the county’s 911 telephone switching system.

Tom Stutzman, director of the county’s emergency management agency, said the purchase and installation would have cost the county $340,000 if it undertook the project on its own, but by cooperating with Region 13 and Venango County, the upgrade will cost the county about $217,000.

Indiana County will share a telephone switch with Westmoreland, Cambria and Somerset counties, and if there is a failure in the Indiana County system, a redundancy capability will still allow calls to be processed through the equipment in the three partner counties.

And, Stutzman said, the upgrade will position Indiana County to use the next generation of technology and process emergency calls to 911 not only by telephone but also by text messaging and video messaging.

In a brief update to the commissioners on the overhaul of the county’s public safety radio network, Stutzman said municipal police departments in the county will switch over to the new radio system on Monday. The exception will be the Indiana Borough Police Department, which will continue to operate its own radio network.

Ambulance crews and then volunteer firefighters will be next to receive training on the new public safety radio equipment and system.

The commissioners also agreed to have McCutcheon Enterprises, of Apollo, perform some emergency maintenance at the Indiana County Jail, where about two feet of sludge has built up in the bottom of a holding tank for the jail’s sanitary sewer system. The sludge is keeping the jail’s sewage system from working as it should.

McCutcheon will vacuum out the tank, sort out the nonbiodegradable items and take the rest of the sludge to a sewage treatment plant.

The emergency maintenance is expected to cost about $7,500. Chairman Rodney Ruddock said the county will pay to have the needed work done quickly, and then will negotiate with the jail’s architect and building contractor in an effort to get reimbursed for the expense.

“We (the county) didn’t design or build the system,” he said.

White Township resident Gary Ferrence presented to the commissioners a bill for $20,144, the cost he cited to reconstruct a pond he allowed to be built on his farm along Lower Two Lick Drive several years ago to replace wetlands displaced when the longer runway was built at the Indiana County/Jimmy Stewart Airport.

The pond, finished in 2008, is about 150 feet from Ferrence’s home. Ferrence said the project was not completed in “an environmentally acceptable manner at no expense to the owner” as was agreed to in 2007.

Ferrence said the top of the pond’s dike was too narrow, the dike and an overflow pipe both leaked, the water was deeper than originally planned, a “manmade cliff” left by the contractor on one side posed a hazard of someone falling in and drowning, an estimated 8,000 tons of excavated dirt was not returned to proper contour and no vegetative cover can grow around the pond because of the steepness of its sides.

After years of meetings between Ferrence, the commissioners, other county representatives and attorneys, the issue was not resolved. Ferrence said the commissioners at one point offered a $30,000 settlement to have the pond rebuilt, but then retracted the offer because of the county’s financial situation.

Ferrence said he and his wife decided to hire their own contractor and have the pond rebuilt because of their concerns about its safety.

Ruddock accepted Ferrence’s five-page memorandum and bill and said it would be passed on to the county’s solicitor and the Indiana County Airport Authority, which Ruddock said had ownership of the wetlands replacement project.

The commissioners Wednesday also approved approximately $247,000 in requests from six municipalities for their shares of the county’s liquid fuels funds.

The money will help Blacklick, Green, White and North Mahoning townships and Marion Center and Clymer boroughs pay for street and road improvements and equipment purchases.

And the commissioners appointed 27 people to the Indiana County Watershed Planning Advisory Committee. The committee will guide the development of the Indiana County Stormwater Management Plan required by the state.

The first meeting of the WPAC will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Homer-Center High School.

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