The Indiana Borough Council unanimously approved a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) ordinance on Tuesday evening, becoming the second body to approve the proposed incentive for development or major repairs. borough properties.
On Jan. 10, the Indiana Area School District Board of Trustees was the first entity to approve a seven-year property tax freeze on new residential, commercial, and industrial construction or real estate improvements in areas qualified and approved.
The Borough’s ordinance passed without any amendments to its announced plan to “encourage economic redevelopment and long-term investment, (to) improve the sustainability of tax revenues in the decades to come, (and) attract new commercial investments, (as well as) encouraging residential development, improving housing and generally promoting the well-being and prosperity of the borough.
It must now be approved by the Indiana County Board of Commissioners. Borough attorney Patrick Dougherty said he was working with his county-level counterpart, attorney Matthew Budash.
“Routine upkeep and upkeep are not considered improvements,” the new borough ordinance reads. “The repair, construction, or reconstruction, including alterations and additions that increase the valuation of the property, (must) be more than $20,000 in construction expenses.”
Improvements of another kind may be in sight, after recent heavy rains led to seepage in the borough’s sewer system. Public Works Board chairman Gerald Smith said a complete replacement of the borough’s 67-year-old terracotta sewer and drainage system is under consideration.
Smith said the borough may need a plan that complies with state law 537 or the Pennsylvania Sewer Facilities Act, which could require an overhaul costing between $10 million and $100 million. . He said the recent rains provided “a classic example of what is needed”.
It won’t happen overnight. Borough Director Nichole Sipos said the borough is looking “six months down the line” for the development of a plan for Law 537.
It may also not be borough-wide. As Council Vice Chair Kaycee Newell and Community Development Committee Chair Ben Ford pointed out, the area around the Marsh Run watershed may be a separate matter because residents of this area have banded together to pursue the borough for sewer problems.
Another type of lawsuit could be in sight. Dougherty said the attorney for Heartland Restaurant Group LLC told him he could provide legal documents for the borough, following the March 8 council vote that allowed the removal of two parking spaces and the relocation of a lamp post to the Philadelphia Street side of a proposed downtown Dunkin’ Donuts located at 518 Philadelphia St.
However, a motion for two parking spaces along the adjacent South Fifth Street was split from the Philadelphia Street motion and was defeated.
The votes capped off a lengthy discussion of the idea of suburban Pittsburgh-based Heartland building a Dunkin’ with drive-thru capability along Philadelphia and South Fifth streets. Heartland also has a Dunkin franchise in White Township.
Meanwhile, planning continues regarding what to do with the $1,378,179.52 the borough is receiving from the U.S. federal bailout law, money that is to be committed to projects. which begin by 2024 and end by 2026.
Sipos said the borough is planning an open house later this month to gather public comment on the ARP funds.
She also said it could be a topic for the council’s work session in May.
The council also tackled the purchase of a 2020 Chevy truck from Griffith Auto Sales of Home for $60,572, to be covered by the borough’s liquid fuels fund.
The purchase of the used truck prompted Councilman Joshua Kratsa to ask why the borough couldn’t purchase a new truck.
Sipos said the inventory was not available through the state’s COSTARS cooperative purchasing program.
Mayor William B. Simmons asked if Sipos had tried a dealer in the borough.
Sipos said the borough also couldn’t get a truck this way.
The Board also authorized Sipos to hire two part-time parking employees, subject to the successful completion of pre-employment requirements.
In addition, council approved new policies regarding postings on the borough’s Facebook page and a virtual code of conduct for borough meetings, which are hybrid in-person and online gatherings.
The Indiana County Community Support Program received the council’s blessing to close IRMC Park May 5 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a mental health awareness walk and health fair.
The board’s public safety committee noted that while a similar event took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not yet considered a recurring event, so board approval has been sought.
Other upcoming events include the planting of trees in honor of Dave Fairman at noon on April 29 near First Christian Church along North Fifth and Water streets.
On behalf of the Shade Tree Commission, Councilman Donald Lancaster said the event honors Fairman’s past contributions to the borough.