July 11, 2008

Coal Twp. Seeks Grant to Help Some Homeowners Bring Properties Up to Code

By Domenick Moore, The News-Item, Shamokin, Pa.

Jul. 11--COAL TOWNSHIP -- The township will be shooting for a $350,000 grant, looking to give a number of homeowners a hand in bringing their properties up to code.

Township commissioners held a public hearing at Thursday's meeting on the HOME Partnership Housing grant, a federal program operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The grant will be awarded to around 14 Coal Township homeowners that need some help meeting code requirements, according to Edward Christiano, director of the county housing authority.

Christiano's office will handle the application process as well as the majority of the program if the township is awarded the grant.

Recipients will be chosen from a list of applicants based on date of application. Anyone applying must meet certain HUD income guidelines, Christiano said. The average sub-grant going to a single home will be around $20,000, he said, with the minimum to maximum range between $5,000 to just under $25,000.

Coal Township will kick in $25,000 in block grant funds from the Department of Community and Economic Development to help secure the HOME grant.

Commissioners had planned a trip to visit the Williamsport Veterans Administration Clinic with Shamokin Area Community Hospital Chief Executive Officer Thomas Harlow and U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-10, but plans were scuttled over a "miscommunication," according to board Secretary Mary Alice Krebs.

The group was hoping to get a feel for how the building was set up and operated, in hope of acquiring a highly-anticipated clinic for Snyder or Northumberland county. However, Carney's office received a call Wednesday instructing him that a permit was required for such a visit.

Coal Township Board of Commissioners President Albert Santor has been a vocal proponent of the clinic being situated in Northumberland County. Harlow has since added his voice to the effort, shooting off a letter of support to Carney, and promising space on the hospital campus.

The commissioners also received a letter from Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in response to a group of Chestnut Street residents complaining about students at Youth Services Alternatives.

"We believe that all decisions are best made by finding factual information from all parties involved rather than the comments of a few," the Rev. Adrian Gallagher, James Backes, of the finance council, and Richard Ulrich, of the parish council of Our Lady of Hope, wrote in the letter.

The students at the alternative school at the former parochial school at 821 W. Chestnut St. could often be seen hanging around the building, smoking and swearing, the residents stated at last month's meeting. The kids even went so far as to loiter on the porches of neighboring properties.

Board Solicitor Vincent Rovito Jr. said he'd be looking into using the school in the alternative education program, since the building's use as a place of education ended two years ago.

The church, its clergy and members are also residents of West Chestnut Street, as well as the township, Gallagher, Backes and Ulrich wrote. In no way was the introduction of the alternative school meant to "compromise the peace of this neighborhood ... "

"We believe one of our responsibilities is to be good neighbors and have always taken that obligation seriously," the trio wrote. But the parish has heard few complaints expressed directly from those around the building, and any complaints directed to Youth Services "have been gracefully received, acted upon and promised to be taken seriously in the future."

The church was only attempting to reach out to help others, as it's done numerous times by helping a number of charities and causes in the coal region, according to the letter. By allowing Youth Services Alternative to utilize the building, the parish is not only combating the blight running rampant throughout the area, it's allowing the building to once again be used for education.

Also, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has denied Coal Township's requests for more signage on and around the Cameron Bridge. Commissioners were concerned that out-of-towners would get confused by the multiple lanes, but "(PennDOT) didn't share our concern," Krebs said after the meeting.

The state agency also disagreed with the board's assertion that there was a problem with the synchronization of traffic signals on the bridge. Securing a trifecta, PennDOT also denied any responsibility for a drainage problem at the intersection of Route 61 and Dewart Street.

A state engineer claimed the water originated from residential properties, which is an issue for the township and the city of Shamokin, not a state matter. PennDOT would try to help out, the engineer said, but it won't do any work beyond the right of way.

"Of course, we knew that," Santor said, referring to PennDOT's snubbing of the township's handful of concerns.

In other news Thursday, township commissioners:

--Passed a motion to authorize advertisement of Ordinance 437, requiring a 1-percent fee for a contractor to work in Coal Township. If a building permit is acquired, the fee would be waived. Local contractors won't be affected.

--Passed Ordinance A-435, amending Ordinance A-222, to add the terms leaf waste, magazines and plastic,s and delete the phrase "computer tab cards," from the definition of recyclables.

--Passed Ordinance A-436, amending Ordinance A-266 to add stipulations that waste collectors must now present weight slips on a semi-annual basis to the recycling coordinator and recyclables from residential buildings will be placed at curbs and designated places, separate from solid waste, for collection on a monthly basis per the zoned schedule, or can be taken to the recycling center. Recyclables include: clear glass, colored glass, steel and bi-metallic cans, office paper, newsprint, corrugated paper and plastic.

--Will be looking for authorization from the Susquehanna Coal Company to erect a gate leading into the Bunker Hill Baseball Complex and for township police to make arrests for illegal dumping at the site.


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