|KITTANNING BOROUGH BUILDINGS SLATED FOR FAÇADE IMPROVEMENTS|
A number of businesses in Kittanning Borough’s downtown district will improve their building facades this year thanks to a Keystone Communities Façade Grant.
From left: Don Myers, Chairman of the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners; Senator Joe Pittman (41st District); Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian; Jason Renshaw, Vice Chairman of the Armstrong Board of Commissioners.
Exterior upgrades to a number of downtown Kittanning buildings are in the works for 2020 thanks to state funding secured with the help of Senator Joe Pittman (41st District) and through the commitment of business owners willing to match their grant allocation, dollar for dollar.
“I am pleased to support and build upon the efforts by Representative Jeff Pyle and my predecessor Senator Don White in continuing this important economic development initiative,” said Senator Pittman. “The façade grant program gives property owners the financial assistance to be part of the ongoing renaissance that is well under way in the Borough of Kittanning. The new streetscapes, lighting and traffic patterns that we have seen in downtown are changing the face of Kittanning. They provide a more welcoming ambience for residents and visitors. This program gives businesses a real incentive to invest in a figurative and literal facelift for their properties. As we invest in Kittanning, the resulting benefits help the entire county.”
Armstrong County Department of Planning & Development assisted Kittanning Borough in applying for the $50,000 Keystone Communities Façade Grant. Appointed members of the Downtown Kittanning Façade Grant Committee developed guidelines and criteria to evaluate all eligible applicants.
Kittanning Borough Councilwoman Betsy Wilt, who is also a member of the Downtown Kittanning Façade Grant Committee, noted that the pursuit of grant funding has been an extension of the borough’s beautification efforts.
“Upon completion of the Market Street revitalization project, Kittanning Borough Council continued to work with the Armstrong County Planning & Development office in securing the Facade grant which will now help with some of the cost for businesses in the business district to upgrade the appearance of their storefronts,” she said. “The Borough looks forward to continuing its work with the Planning Office in order to apply for another Facade grant in the near future.”
Armstrong County Board of Commissioners’ Chairman acknowledged the collaboration of all parties involved.
“The board is grateful to Senator Pittman for his assistance in getting this grant, which will help expand on the ongoing revitalization efforts within the borough,” said Chairman Don Myers, of the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners.
Applications for four businesses have been approved, with a total of $35,000 in grant funds committed to improving the facades of Allegheny Real Estate Services, Keep Me In Stitches, Sprankle’s Neighborhood Market, and Hutchison’s Jewelers. Approval for several additional projects are pending.
Armstrong County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Jason Renshaw anticipates the grant will have a far-reaching impact on the community.
“The polish and shine this program gives to specific buildings will improve local pride and cast a positive light on the entire downtown,” he said.
The Armstrong County Department of Planning and Development is anticipating that a future Façade Grant application is likely, as staff have already received interest from candidates for projects that could not be included in the current grant round. Eligible projects include storefront façade; exterior restoration/painting; architectural elements and additions; awnings; exterior lighting; lighting signage; and signs.
“This funding can be a big help to a small budget, and it would be great to see more businesses and building owners take advantage of this opportunity,” said Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian.
|The Hutchison’s Jewelers storefront, in 2017, presented with an aging façade and plywood on a storefront window. The building is one of several to receive Keystone Communities Facade Grant funds for improvements slated to begin this year.|
|FORMER SHANNOCK VALLEY SCHOOL ADMIN BUILDING DEMOLISHED|
The demolition of a vacant and deteriorated building in Rural Valley Borough marks the latest collaborative move by the county, the borough and the state to address blighted properties in Armstrong County.
The borough-owned building, located at the corner of Kime Road and West School Street, was the former Shannock Valley High School Administration Building.
In late November 2019, officials met in front of a structure that for so many local residents had been a reminder of by-gone school days. Over the years, the cost of possible rehabilitation of the building continued to increase. Evidence of vandalism was visible everywhere – from the shattered glass littering the interior floor to the spray-painted graffiti along the exterior walls.
State Senator Joe Pittman (41st District) who had discussed the building’s deteriorated state with Rural Valley’s Mayor Lou Bartosiewicz, noted:
“While tearing down buildings and the removal of blight is not always viewed as a positive, the reality is these buildings have no useful life and decrease the land value of neighboring properties. By removing these properties, it allows them to be returned to the tax rolls, making them attractive for purchase by neighboring land owners – which increases the overall property values of the community.”
Pat Fabian, Armstrong County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, reiterated that sentiment as he discussed the demolition project with Mayor Bartosiewicz and with the Senator’s District Director Jeremy Dias.
“It needed to come down. Hopefully the property can get back on the tax rolls – it’s a nice lot,” Commissioner Fabian said. “This is a great example of why the blight program was created.”
While speaking about the project, Commissioner Jason Renshaw noted the importance of collaboration between county, state and local levels.
“Transforming communities, one blighted property at a time, becomes more possible when we all work together,” Commissioner Renshaw said.
Commissioner George Skamai agreed.
“We all want the same thing, to see revitalization in our neighborhoods and to live in a safe, thriving community,” Commissioner Skamai said.
Commissioner Fabian extended his thanks on behalf of the Board of Commissioners to Senator Pittman and his staff for assistance in securing grant funding for blight remediation. The project is being paid for through a combination of state grant funds and the county’s Act 152 demolition funds.
|COUNTY 2019 CDBG APPLICATION PROJECTS ANNOUNCED|
The Armstrong County Board of Commissioners is pleased to announce two projects have been selected for funding through the county’s 2019 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. Distribution of the county’s $265,842 allocation was determined using a comprehensive competitive ranking system.
“We’re glad we are able to support the municipalities of Ford City and Bradys Bend Township with these very critical infrastructure improvement projects,” said Armstrong County Board of Commissioners Chairman Pat Fabian.
The Ford City Borough 2019 Water Valve Replacement Project will utilize $71,651 in County 2019 CDBG funds and over $10,000 in local matching funds. The project is projected to cost $82,000.
The Bradys Bend Township Cove Run Road Reconstruction Project is expected to cost $161,340, utilizing $15,000 in local matching funds and $146,340 in 2019 County CDBG funds.
“The county uses CDBG funds to assist communities with a variety of projects, from road reconstruction to water line extensions to ADA upgrades of public facilities,” said Armstrong County Commissioner and Board Secretary George Skamai.
Between 2015 and 2018, more than $800,000 in County CDBG funds was allocated for projects in North Buffalo Township, Sagamore, Sugarcreek Township, South Bethlehem, Bradys Bend Township and West Kittanning.
This year, 13 municipalities, authorities and nonprofits submitted 20 proposals for the county’s 2019 fiscal funding year CDBG allocation. Although not all proposals were eligible or fundable under CDBG guidelines, county officials were pleased with the increased interest in the program.
The uptick in proposal submissions came about after the planning and development department ramped up its CDBG awareness campaign last spring, including print and social media outreach and a workshop. A 2020 CDBG proposal workshop is in the works for the spring.
“These projects can make a lasting impact on a community,” said Armstrong County Commissioner and Vice Chairman Jason Renshaw. “So, it’s important that we help municipalities become familiar with CDBG and other funding opportunities.”
|Kittanning property ready for demolition under County's Blight Remediation plan|
A vacant former duplex in Kittanning Borough, which is slated for demolition, is the latest project targeted by Armstrong County in its fight against blight.
The county has worked closely with the borough to identify problem properties. The demolition of 150 Diamond Way will be the third demolition in the county in recent weeks. Two similar projects were completed in Leechburg along Siberian Avenue.
State Sen. Don White (R-41st), who helped the county secure funding to assist in blight remediation efforts, commended Kittanning officials, the Armstrong Board of Commissioners and the Department of Planning and Development for working together to deal with problem properties.
|Local, county and state officials gather Friday, Jan. 18 in front of a blighted structure in Kittanning Borough before its scheduled demolition. From left: Kittanning Councilmen Joseph Kiehlmeier and Scott Davis; Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian; State Sen. Don White; Armstrong County Commissioner Jason Renshaw; Armstrong County Commissioner George Skamai.|
|Demolition of Blighted Leechburg Property|
|Demolition of the blighted Leechburg property at 125-127 Siberian Avenue got underway on Monday, Jan. 7 as part of an agreement between Leechburg Borough and the County of Armstrong’s blight remediation efforts.|
Leechburg Blighted Property Demolished
Armstrong County’s blight remediation efforts have targeted two vacant properties along Siberian Avenue in Leechburg Borough.
A week before Christmas, number 137 was torn down by Baker Excavating & Contracting. The other structure – a former duplex at numbers 125-127 – has also been slated for demolition.
On Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 Armstrong County Commissioner Pat Fabian met with Leechburg Mayor Wayne Dobos at the demolition site. They were joined by the county’s Department of Planning and Development’s Executive Director Darin Alviano and Program Manager Brigid Beatty.
“It started with this guy,” Commissioner Fabian said, giving a nod toward the mayor. “He was the one who brought up the issue of blight and asked us what we could do about it.”
The issue of blight was raised in late 2016 during one of the Board of Commissioners’ regional town hall meetings by Mayor Dobos, who at that time was on Leechburg Council. The development of a Blight Remediation Plan followed. Two separate grants – a $100,000 Community Development Initiatives Program Grant and a $100,000 Keystone Community Program Grant – both from the Department of Community and Economic Development were obtained after discussions took place between county officials and State Sen. Don White (R-41st) about community revitalization.
In July 2017 the county-appointed Blight Task Force recommended to the commissioners that some of the grant money be allocated to demolish three blighted properties. Those included the two properties on Siberian Avenue in Leechburg and one former duplex on Diamond Way in Kittanning.
In 2018 Leechburg Borough entered into an agreement with the county to acquire the two problem properties out of the county repository and to pay for the structures to be demolished. The county in turn will reimburse the borough for the cost of the demolitions using grant funds. Kittanning Borough has entered into a similar agreement with the county.
The remaining funds from the grant will go toward Land Bank activities. On Dec. 20, 2018 the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance authorizing the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Armstrong (RACA) to act as a land bank. This will facilitate the return of vacant, abandoned, tax delinquent and blighted properties to productive use. It is one more tool the county can use to combat community deterioration, improve the quality of neighborhoods, foster economic growth and spur investments.
|RIBBON-CUTTING EVENT MARKS COMPLETION OF THE KITTANNING MARKET STREET REVITALIZATION PROJECT|
A Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony was held near the steps of the Armstrong County Courthouse on December 5, 2018 marking the completion of the Kittanning Market Street Revitalization Project.
Public Input Used To Develop Regional Long-Range Transportation And Development Plan
Issues related to regional transportation and development plans were on the minds of Armstrong County residents and stakeholders who attended the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commissions’ (SPC) public meeting on Monday, Oct. 29 in the Armstrong County Commissioners’ Conference Room at the Annex Building in Kittanning.
More than 25 people attended the event to weigh in on current and future projects. The purpose of the meeting was to gather information and data to help SPC develop its long-range transportation plan.
SPC asked attendees for input on prioritizing strategies that would best address five “forces of change” that will have an impact on Armstrong County and the other nine counties of southwestern Pennsylvania over the next 25 years.
Forces of Change with significant potential effects on transportation and development have been identified in five broad categories: Demographics, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Funding.
During the interactive meeting, each attendee had the opportunity to pinpoint what they thought were priorities and growing trends for the region. One map focused on recreational trails, highlighting the movement toward a connection of a regional trail network.
A number of residents expressed their desire for improvements on Route 28 North from Kittanning to I-80, in addition to the continued improvements on Route 422 to Indiana.
“The commissioners were very encouraged by the turnout for this meeting. We applaud and thank all those who attended,” said Commissioner Pat Fabian, who attended the meeting. “It is important that the needs and priorities of Armstrong county residents are being heard on a regional level.”
The SPC is developing a regional long-range plan and those strategies identified regionally as a priority will guide planning efforts now and into the future. SPC will be back out in the spring to present a draft of the Regional Long-Range Plan to county residents.
|Armstrong Recycling Center No Longer Accepting Used Motor Oil|
The Progressive Workshop of Armstrong County (PWAC) has announced that the Armstrong Recycling Center will no longer be accepting used motor oil.
Previously, used motor oil had been used to generate heat for the Recycling Center at its location at the Armsdale Complex in Rayburn Township.
“However, now there are no free alternatives for disposal of used oil,” said Matt Ardeno, PWAC vice president of production and sales. “The center cannot afford to accrue costs associated with its collection and therefore has no choice but to discontinue accepting it.”
Materials that continue to be accepted at the Armstrong Recycling Center include the following: Newspapers; office paper/magazines; corrugated cardboard; aluminum cans; steel cans; #1 and #2 plastic bottles and jugs; green, clear and brown glass bottles and jars.
|Kittanning Borough Seeks Grant for Façade Upgrades in Kittanning|
Kittanning Borough is once again applying for a Keystone Communities Façade Grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for up to $50,000 for improvements to the exteriors of eligible buildings in the central business district of Kittanning Borough.
If awarded, the money will help give a facelift to commercial buildings in the focus area. The maximum amount per storefront façade would be $5,000 and must be matched dollar for dollar by the business owner/building owner. A side or corner of a commercial building bordering a public lot or street will also be considered for exterior improvements, up to $5,000.
Armstrong County Department of Planning & Development will be assisting Kittanning Borough with the application.
“Updating the facades of local businesses will complement the revitalization efforts within the Borough. We are hopeful that DCED will look favorably upon our grant application and award the façade grant to the Borough,” said Carmen Johnson, Interim Executive Director of the Armstrong County Department of Planning and Development.
Eligible projects include: storefront façade; exterior restoration/painting; architectural elements and additions; awnings; exterior lighting; lighting signage; and signs.
If funded, the borough will hold a grant round during which time all interested parties can submit applications to be reviewed by a design committee. If awarded, funds are expected to become available sometime in the summer of 2019.
|Kittanning Revitalization To Make Market Street Bloom|
Kittanning’s Market Street will be blooming with color this summer, offering folks more reason to linger a while longer and enjoy the borough’s downtown.
Downtown Kittanning has seen much improvement of late with its new tree-lined sidewalks, vintage-style street lights and standing clock. Now the Kittanning Revitalization Committee – the group spearheading those improvements – wants to further elevate the street’s look and appeal by installing flower baskets high up on the light poles.
“The committee wanted to green the place up,” said Roger Mechling, Kittanning Revitalization Committee member.
The hope is that a blooming Market Street might result in a more vibrant downtown. Mechling noted that similar steps have been taken in other cities and towns. Adding colorful and charming elements like this to the downtown may give current business owners additional incentive to improve their properties and create an attractive environment that encourages more business.
It will cost close to $6,000 to pay the committee’s project partner – the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy – to install the 24 wrought-iron flowering basket. The baskets will be affixed onto the light poles by the end of May. That cost is being paid for through a grant from The Smart Foundation.
However, additional donations are needed to pay a contractor to water and apply fertilizer to the plants using equipment that can extend to the baskets’ height.
The summer-long maintenance will cost around $6,400. According to Mechling, the committee has already received a $1,000 donation. The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Armstrong (RACA) is the agency which will help collect and disburse donations. Tax deductible donations/checks should be made out to “RACA – Kittanning Revitalization” and should be mailed to the following address: 402 Market Street Kittanning, PA 16201.
The Revitalization Committee worked with the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners, the county’s Department of Planning and Development and Kittanning Borough to bring the project to fruition.
Further questions may be directed to Andy Bradigan at 724-543-3322 or Roger Mechling at 724-543-1120.
|Armstrong County Planning Commission Reviews Report|
Last year saw the creation of 175 new land parcels in Armstrong County, according to a report reviewed by the Armstrong County Planning Commission.
Plans submitted in 33 municipalities to the Planning Commission for review increased by 12 from the previous year. The plans – 108 in total – consisted of a combination of subdivision and land development.
“It’s encouraging to see an uptick in land development activity – and there is every indication that it will continue through 2018,” said Harry Breski, chairman of the planning commission.
Armstrong County adopted its first subdivision and land development ordinance (SALDO) in 1958. All municipalities in Armstrong County, with the exception of Apollo Borough, are subject to this ordinance. Apollo Borough adopted its own SALDO in 1999.
County SALDO requires subdivision approval prior to selling or conveying a portion of land.
SALDO also requires a land development plan when improvements of one lot or two or more contiguous parcels of land is proposed to involve – either initially or over time – a group of two or more residential or nonresidential buildings. This requirement also extends to instances involving a single nonresidential building – regardless of the number of occupants.
Adherence to SALDO requirements helps create accurate and recorded descriptions of land sold, protects the value of property and increases the marketability of land parcels within the county. It is also a way to make sure that subdivisions and land development do not pose any threats to public health and safety.
|Official Designation Given to Middle Allegheny River Water Trail|
A section of the Allegheny River that winds through Armstrong County has received its official designation as the Middle Allegheny River Water Trail.
The designation was approved by the Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership of the National Parks Service (NPS), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC).
The Middle Allegheny River Water Trail is the newest Pennsylvania water trail, according to DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation.
Armstrong County received notification of the designation in early February 2018.
The designation positions Armstrong County for increased opportunities, according to Lynda J. Pozzuto, president of the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau’s Board of Directors.
Pozzuto noted that it has the potential to increase tourism. This, she said, can bring a positive economic impact to the county in addition to possible national recognition of special events that highlight the trail.
Copies of the map, developed by the Armstrong County Tourist Bureau with assistance from the Armstrong County Department of Planning and Development, highlight points of interest along this 61-mile stretch of the Allegheny River.
Its main route begins at the water trail’s southern terminus at Freeport Riverfront Park and continues all the way to its northern terminus at Emlenton Launch, in Clarion County.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunities this will bring to Armstrong County,” Pozzuto said. “We are excited to show off the beautiful Allegheny River, and Armstrong County!”
Middle Allegheny River Water Trail Partners include Armstrong and Clarion counties; Baker Family Charitable Fund (through the Community Foundation); Allegheny Township, Westmoreland County; Cowanshannock Creek Watershed Association; East Brady Area Development; Ford City Borough; Freeport Borough; and West Kittanning Borough.
|Armstrong UCC Building Permit Activity Review|
Residential construction, including the building of manufactured homes, rose by one percent in 2017 from the previous year among participating municipalities within the Armstrong Uniform Construction Code (UCC) Group.
County Takes Next Step in Blight Prevention
In a continued effort to halt the spread of blighted properties throughout Armstrong County, the Board of Commissioners approved a contract in January of 2018 with Christopher Gulotta, of The Gulotta Group, for consulting services in the development of a land bank.
After a five-month closure, motorists are once again free to drive across Cherry Run Hill Bridge in Plumcreek Township now that the bridge replacement project has wrapped up.
|New Play Equipment|
Rural Valley Borough recently completed the installation of new playground equipment at the Shannock Valley Park. The new equipment features a play apparatus that includes climbing structures, slides and a four-bay swing set. As part of the project, two benches, a covered picnic table and a new sidewalk have been installed within the playground vicinity.