Same debate in new place

Supporters of the two entities vying to be Warren County’s designated Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA) dominated the public comment period during the Sheffield Township Supervisors’ meeting Monday night.

Last month, the Warren County Commissioners passed a resolution switching the TPA designation from the Warren County Visitors Bureau (WCVB) to the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry (WCCBI), effective Jan. 1, 2014.

To be designated as the TPA, resolutions supporting the change to WCCBI must be passed by municipalities wherein at least 51 percent of the county’s inhabitants reside, according to the latest decennial census figures.

With the designation goes revenue generated by the county’s hotel occupancy tax, a figure which has reached up to $150,000 in recent years.

WCVB Board President Karen Sobkowski spoke in favor of leaving the designation with the WCVB. Ed Atwood and Walter Atwood also spoke in support.

John Papalia Jr., director of the Council on Tourism under WCCBI, spoke on his organization’s behalf. Former WCVB board member Alan Chapel also spoke in support of WCCBI.

Sobkowski cited the work the bureau has done in the approximately ten years since being designated TPA, including creation of an online map and calendar, publication of a visitors guide and operation of the visitors center on Route 6 in Starbrick.

She also spoke about a proposed merger between WCCBI and WCVB prompted by the urgings of the county commissioners.

“It pretty much would have wiped out our board,” she said.

Sobkowski said she believes the change in designation was prompted by WCVB’s refusal to support an increase in the hotel occupancy tax from three to six percent.

Papalia outlined some of the things WCCBI is currently doing with tourism, including events and work with Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways (PKP).

“We’ll continue to support permanent tourism and infrastructure,” he said.

Papalia said WCCBI wants to continue both the things it is doing and the things WCVB is doing.

He also spoke in response on the proposed merger, pointing out the proposal presented would have created an entirely new board, not just eliminated the WCVB board and put tourism under the management of the WCCBI board.

The supervisors did not review the matter or take any action once the public comment portion of the meeting ended. It was never brought to the table.

In other business, it was reported that three blighted properties, on 1st Mill St., 2nd Mill St. and Cottage Ave. were identified during fall road inspection. The property owners will be sent a nuisance ordinance violation letter.

A garage in Barnes and a camp on Hathaway Ln., which were the subject of previously sent nuisance ordinance violation letter to the property owners, were discussed. The two sites have not had blight alleviated and will be moved to the county blighted property process.

The supervisors approved advertising a proposed change to the township’s weight limit ordinance. Changes proposed include simplification of fees and the establishment of a minimum fee. The changes were prompted by discussions with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The supervisors will be consulting Solicitor Andrea Stapleford on the matter and a vote is slated for the Nov. 4 supervisors meeting.

Bid results for work at the Henry’s Mills Bridge were announced. L.C. Whitford Co. entered the lowest of eight bids for work at $807,888. Work on the bridge is anticipated to begin in the spring.

Purchase of a computer tower for the Sheffield Township Police Department was approved.