Regional project’s scope shrinking

Representatives at the Warren County Intergovernmental Cooperative (COG) meeting Wednesday evening discussed the opportunity to coordinate with an Erie-based project originally envisioned as having a five-county, regional scope.

Erie County will be meeting with the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI) at the Conewango Club next Tuesday morning to discuss the “Destination Erie: A Regional Vision” project.

The project which focuses on comprehensive planning of government, tourism, transportation, business and other facets of the community is aimed at future planning with an eye on sustainability.

A $1.8 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant is funding the work, which is where some contention over the project arises.

The grant application was originally written with a regional focus covering a five-county area and sponsored by Erie County. However, once project funding was received and project development began, thing took a more Erie-centric path, focusing mainly on the sponsoring county.

“It’s something that’s bothered me personally because I thought it should be regional,” Alan Kugler of the COG’s consulting firm PA Futures said at Wednesday evening’s meeting

The June 11 meeting with WCCBI may be an opportunity to expand the project back to a more regional focus, according to Kugler ,who urged representatives of local government to attend.

“It think this is a really important region-wide project,” Kugler said. “Warren County should really push to be well within that project.”

COG members were also updated on progress on an inter-departmental inter-/intranet project.

Fire Services Committee Chairman Paul Pascuzzi announced he attended the Warren Gives check distribution event.

According to Pascuzzi, Warren Gives organizers approached both fire departments and the fire services committee about participating and 22 of the 85 organizations involved were fire services-related.

“We thank them for doing that,” Pascuzzi said.

In all, the committee received a total of $125 in donation from three donors, while the individual fire departments raised significantly more.

“We felt that the contributions should be made to the fire departments,” Kugler pointed out.

Pascuzzi went on to announce the Warren County Commissioners had signed an agreement with Insight Technologies for the project and that he had spoken to Ines Nelson with Insight.

“The county commissioners signed the contract with Insight to kick off the project,” Pascuzzi said. “When I spoke to Ines, she was eager to get this started.”

The first phase of the project is slated to begin soon and will include six service providers, including one county-level partner. A meeting with Insight and two other contractors slated to work on the project is tentatively planned for the week of June 25 to work out details, Pascuzzi reported.

County Planner Dan Glotz said he has received word from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) locking grant funding for the project in place.

“I did get the contract back from DCED,” Glotz said, “so that money is finalized.”

Kugler noted $65,125 in funding for the three-year project is now in place. The total cost of the entire project is expected to be approximately $85,000.

The committee is also working in conjunction with the Warren County School District to organize an emergency services day for middle school students, according to Pascuzzi. He said organizers are looking into grant funding to cover the costs of the event.

Adam Elms, assistant manager for PennDOT’s Warren County Maintenance District, provided the presentation for the night.

Elms highlighted projects slated for the warm-weather season, noting work will be less extensive than in previous years due to budget concerns.

“As you know, budget outlooks don’t look good, but we do have some projects,” Elms said. “The bulk of our maintenance money is going to seal coat.”

Elms announced only two paving projects Coal Hill Road to Miller Hill Road and a section of Rt. 62 near Wildwood and two bridge projects, the Matthews Run and Irvine Run bridges.

“Did I understand you right that we’re only going to get two miles of new paving in Warren County this year?” Warren County Commissioner John Eggleston asked.

“Not exactly two, but about,” Elms replied.

“Our roadways are deteriorating,” Eggleston responded.

“Have you traveled in Harrisburg?” Pascuzzi asked. “They have some awfully nice roads down there.”

“I agree,” Elm said, “but we only have so much money… Honestly, we get a certain cut of the money and we’re looking at losing another million.”

“It was the same way with trying to get projects on the TIP (state Transportation Improvement Plan),” Glotz said. “You get into the TIP and the funding just isn’t there.”

Elms also noted funding is more seasonally focused than the public realizes.

“We’re primarily a winter-based organization,” he said. “All of our equipment funding is geared toward winter… Some people don’t know that we’re winter-based.”

Elms also announced PennDOT is evaluating the Glade Bridge near United Refining to determine whether repatching or repaving is needed. The work is dependent upon available funding.

He also noted the Russell bridge is in the design process.

Elms listed a number of other projects that are awaiting funding.

Glotz asked COG members to let fire departments know wildfire mapping is ongoing and they need department information.

“If you know any departments still sitting on that mapping we need to get that in ASAP,” he said.

He also solicited members for a Solid Waste Advisory Board that is being reactivated as part of putting in place the county solid waste plan, a process which must be completed every ten years. The board must have one member from a township and one from a borough.

Members were also informed that the City of Warren is still looking for two individuals with construction and design backgrounds to serve on the Uniform Construction Code Appeals Board. The board is being put in place by the city, but will serve municipalities that contract with the city for code inspection work.

The COG will be contacting state Sen. Scott Hutchinson to present at its July meeting on budget issues.

“They will, hopefully, by then have the budget taken care of,” Glotz said.

The state budget is due June 30.