Turtle Creek Valley cog director’s Report tcvcog board Meeting June 26, 2014 Important Dates

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Turtle Creek Valley COG

Director’s Report

TCVCOG Board Meeting

June 26, 2014
Important Dates:

7/16: Manager’s Meeting

7/28: Blight Busters: Tri-COG Collaborative – Multi-Municipal Land Bank Business Plan


Land Banking:

The business plan is set to be completed at the end of this month. We have been actively meeting with people from the foundation community to discuss our progress on the plan and where we hope to take the next stage of our work in establishing a land bank. This summer we will be speaking with municipal leaders and key stakeholders to solicit input about the plan. While the business plan will offer suggestions for policies, procedures, ordinances, an intergovernmental cooperation agreement and costs projections, getting input from municipalities will be key to the success of the plan and ultimately the land bank.

Liz attended the second annual Land Bank Summit in Hershey PA on June 9th. The summit was geared towards Pennsylvania Land Banks. The first four land banks in PA presented on their process, the hurdles they faced and the successes they have won. Kim Grazioni from the Center for Community Progress was there to present on how the issues we are facing with vacancies and some of the concerns with land banking are “normal.” Breakout sessions included determining funding for a land bank. Startup funds most consistently come from the local units of government, negotiated shared services for staffing, city/municipality agreeing to do maintenance in the starting years, foundation grants, and allocation of federal funds such as CDBG, HOME, and EPA Brownfields. There is also an opportunity to work with Wells Fargo Bank to get REO properties donated in addition to funds for demolition. The second session was about creating Strategic and Business Plans for a land bank. It was reassuring to know that the tri-COG collaborative has been following much of the recommendations that came from the “lessons learned” from other land banks and consultants.
Other News:
Code Enforcement:

This month we had another code enforcement working group meeting and also discussed code enforcement with the managers at our monthly meeting. We have been forging partnerships with organizations in the region not only working on issues related to blight, but those who can provide some increase in capacity due to technological tools. Gtech presented, to our working group committee, a tool that allows for data collection to occur in the field. We have steadily been working on the budget and setting the procedures for the code enforcement officer to follow. A fund was set up in previous years for additional RAD money that came to the COG that was not a part of the budget. The money was set aside to be used for a special projects. The managers approved the recommendation that these funds be used to purchase a vehicle for the code enforcement program.

Additional Meetings:

The Local Government Academy held a training on “Options for Dealing with Dilapidated and Abandoned Properties.” Presentations were given on many of the legal tools to deal with blight and more specific presentations were given on Sheriff Sales, Donations, and Conservatorship. Dormant is the first community in Allegheny County to use Conservatorship, but the Redevelopment Authority in Beaver County has been successful with the new law. Also Wilkinsburg is the first municipality in Allegheny County to use the private asset attachment allowed in Act 90 so we are excited to see how that turns out.

The Allegheny Conference had their quarterly meeting this week on Tuesday June 17th. The Conference has been reevaluating their vision for 2015-2017 and the meeting marked the end of their open discussions and gathering of desired action items from their stakeholders. The overwhelmingly demanded issues were on regionalizing transportation and workforce development and retention. The Conference is also embarking on a program called Hola Pittsburgh in which they are actively attracting skilled workers from Puerto Rico.

Manager’s Advisory Committee Meeting (June 18, 2014):

In Attendance: Rebecca Bradley, Wilkins; Greg Bachy, Plum; Marla Marcinko, Wilkinsburg;, Connie Rosenbayger, East McKeesport; Patty Logo, North Versailles; Steve Morus, Forest Hills; Tracey Miller, Wall; Moe Rayan, Penn Hills; Tim Little, Monroeville; Annette Dietz, Pitcairn; Annette Goodwin, East Pittsburgh; Amanda Settelmaier, TCVCOG; Liz Kozub TCVCOG

Blight Busters- The next session will be a presentation from Marisa Manheim from Pittsburgh/Allegheny Grows on Community Gardening Programs. It will be held Monday June 23rd at 2:00 pm at the Steel Valley COG.

Discussion on the meeting with the EPA on June 17th at 7:00 pm in Greentree

Amanda asked the managers what their thoughts were on the meeting. She understood that the EPA would consider pushing back the date in which regionalization needed to be completed to 2032. This would only happen if at the time of the 6 year check in the plan was being followed as agreed. If the plan was not being followed, the date of competition would remain at the original 2026 deadline. This potential change in deadline has not yet been set in stone, but it is something discussed. Also the EPA wants the plan to follow an “adoptive management” process so that municipalities and ALCOSAN remain flexible to new items in the future.

Moe serves on the Sewer Regionalization Implementation Committee which is charged with giving recommendations on how municipalities will give up their trunk lines to ALCOSAN. The major hurdle the committee is facing is not knowing the costs. This is especially troublesome for municipalities who have taken out bonds on their trunk lines. Moe voiced, and many others agreed, that it is hard to make a recommendation to municipal councils on the transfer of assets to ALCOSAN if the cost remains unknown. The Allegheny County Health Department is currently working on determining the costs, including how the shared costs will affect municipalities. Many managers see the trunk lines as assets and therefore feel it may not be unreasonable to ask for some type of payment in exchange for the trunk lines.

It is the feeling among the group of managers that attended the EPA meeting that the next steps for municipalities to take were not clearly articulated. The EPA encouraged regionalization but did not offer action steps to be taken. Amanda will reach out to John Schombert to see if he is able to provide a summary of the meeting and EPA’s future expectations.

Discussion on Code Enforcement

As most of the managers know the COG is looking into establishing a Code Enforcement program. Since the last managers meeting the Code Enforcement working group has met twice. The group has come up with a draft agreement, job description and has been working on the budget.

Moe asked how the program would work if a municipality needed a few hours at an as needed basis. The program really requires a commitment from the participating municipalities. There would need to be an agreement upfront as to how many hours the municipality would need each year, especially at this pilot stage.

The COG has set aside some additional RAD money to be used for Special Projects. There is currently $18,000 in that account. Amanda asked for a recommendation or a motion from this committee approving the spending of those funds on a vehicle for the code enforcement program. The COG would ensure the municipalities are committed and have the agreement signed prior to the purchase of a vehicle.

Motion to approve the spending of funds on a code enforcement car made by Connie, seconded by Greg. Moe abstained from the vote. All others voted in approval.

Annette Dietz asked if there was another way in which municipalities, who already have code enforcement officers, could get involved in code enforcement related issues. Is the COG able to offer another level of involvement, such as shared legal costs for development of ordinances? This is not directly in line with the purpose of this program but it is something that can be looked into in the future. The COG is however working with a firm from Massachusetts called Virtual Towns and Schools. They are creating a listserve that would allow municipalities to share best practices, ordinances, RFPs, and other information such as problem landlords.

Marla asked if there is any way the code enforcement officer could also do critter control. There are all types of varmints that are overrunning neighborhoods. There are many certifications that are required through the Department of Agriculture. The managers discussed who they were currently using for this service.

Other Business

Tim asked if municipalities that have purchased municipal vehicles put out an RFP. The overwhelming answer was that most vehicles were leased or purchased through the Joint Purchasing Alliance.

Tim also wanted to bring to the attention of the managers an article that was published in the Post-Gazette about a truck that can repair street potholes in the winter months by using a hot patch as opposed to a cold patch. The cost of the vehicle is around $300,000. It’s not feasible to purchase individually, but there may be a joint agreement with municipalities to share a lease for this vehicle.
Police Chief Advisory Committee Meeting (June 24, 2014):

Attendance:  Chief Stroschein, East McKeesport; Asst. Chief Kujuva, Churchill; Asst. Chief Watson, Swissvale; Chief L. Payne, East Pittsburgh; Chief Williams, Forest Hills; Chief Bazzone, North Braddock

John Corcoran from Jones Craig and Creehan was scheduled to attend this meeting to discuss eviction of those with drug related issues. Unfortunately he called to cancel just prior to the start of the meeting. Amanda will attempt to reschedule for September.
Assistant Chief Watson informed the group that Swissvale has been working with Churchill to coordinate an Active Shooter drill at Woodland Hills High School. The drill will take place on August 18th, and the hope is that every department within the school district will participate. More details will be forthcoming.
Amanda has not heard from Art Keenan from DA Zappala’s office. She will call to follow up.
The group decided to recess for the summer. Therefore, the next meeting is scheduled for September 23rd at 10am at the COG office.

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