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Steel Rivers Council of Governments takes shape as 4 merger resolutions pass

The Steel Rivers Council of Governments began to take shape Thursday, a year after its predecessors' boards set the merger in motion.

Members of the Twin Rivers and Steel Valley council boards authorized several measures to that end at a combined meeting at Steel Valley's Homestead headquarters.

“I want you to feel at home,” Steel Valley president Raymond Bodnar of Munhall told his Twin Rivers counterparts as he wielded the gavel during a two-hour dinner meeting featuring turkey and pumpkin pie.

Twin Rivers president Monica Douglas Glowinski sat next to Bodnar, while Twin Rivers Solicitor Falco Muscante read four resolutions dealing with the merger and future funding, all of which passed unanimously.

The Steel Rivers council is made up of West Newton and 19 Allegheny County communities.

The first resolution, moved by Kenneth Hresko of Port Vue and seconded by James Sheedy of Versailles, is meant to bring about “the voluntary dissolution of the Twin Rivers Council of Governments pursuant to the provisions of the nonprofit corporation law of the commonwealth.”

The next one, moved by Hresko and seconded by Chuck Arthrell of Braddock Hills, authorized a federal Community Development Block Grant application for $103,950 in Year 42 project management funds. Year 42 begins July 1.

It and a third resolution, with its wish list of $2,670,450 for projects in 20 municipalities, both authorize Steel Valley to take action as “predecessor of the merged council of governments to be known as the Steel Rivers council.”

That resolution was moved by Richard Lattanzi of Clairton and seconded by Hresko. The fourth resolution, moved by Arthrell and seconded by Joseph Ballas of Munhall, amends the Steel Valley council's articles of incorporation “pursuant to the provisions of the nonprofit corporation law.”

Allegheny County Economic Development officials presented some sobering news about Community Development Block Grants.

Economic Development senior deputy director Jack Exler said those grants have been shrinking annually for 15 years — and more restrictions are coming from Washington.

While Steel Rivers municipalities seek $2.67 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development funding, Exler said the new council will get only $280,142. Still, that's twice what other Allegheny County councils get, as the council won't be penalized for the merger.

The money has to be split up among $20,000 projects.

Four distressed or Act 47 municipalities in the Mon-Yough area get funding on top of that, with Steel Rivers members Duquesne and Clairton getting $125,800 each. Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments members Braddock and Rankin get $125,800 and $52,012, respectively.

Exler said that in Year 42, “COGs will be limited to a 30 percent cap on demolition projects.”

It gets stricter in Year 43, beginning July 1, 2017. There will be $400,000 in a special demolition fund for all the councils of governments in Allegheny County.

Exler said a reason for that is insufficient documentation accompanying 68 of 165 applications for funds in Year 41 — including 63 of 69 applications for demolition funds.

“The cost of demolition has gone up,” Homestead's Betty Esper said. “The money we receive hasn't. In fact it is going lower.”

Another problem for Allegheny County, Exler said, is “70 percent of your funds have to go to helping low- and moderate-income residents.”

Usually that's no problem, but not in the past two years, as only 61.93 percent went to low- and moderate-income residents in Year 39 (2013-14), and only 69.41 percent in Year 40 (2014-15).

For Year 41 (2015-16), 85.43 percent has to go to low- and moderate-income residents, Exler said, in order to raise the three-year average back above 70 percent.

Exler said that goal should be reached easily.

Steel Valley members Braddock Hills, Homestead, Munhall, West Elizabeth, West Homestead, Whitaker and Clairton were present, along with Twin Rivers members Elizabeth, Glassport, Port Vue, Versailles, White Oak, Forward and Duquesne.

Forward's alternate, Amy Cline, was present but unable to vote, though a change in the bylaws of the new council of governments would allow the community-minded but unelected township resident to vote at future meetings.

Action was expected last month by the Forward board of supervisors to accept those bylaws, but Cline was unable to attend because of a family matter. Forward supervisors meet again at 7 p.m. Monday.

The next Steel Rivers meeting is the annual dinner meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at Georgetown Centre in Pleasant Hills. Tickets are $30 apiece.

Files from the Twin Rivers council's rented offices in McKeesport's old city hall will be moved to the Steel Valley Human Service Center in Homestead. Officials expect to complete that by early to mid-December.

The council is offering a $300 prize for the designer of its new logo. Entries will be accepted through Jan. 31.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or [email protected]•


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