Bellwood Borough Council tentatively approves 2003 Budget

Bellwood Borough Council met Monday evening to discuss and act on issues within the borough. The meeting began somberly with a moment of silence in memory of the recent passing of Bellwood Mayor James Bonsell’s wife, Louise.
Topping the agenda was council’s tentative adoption of the 2003 General Fund Budget. It was presented by Steve Hess, CPA of Hess & Marino of Altoona. The tentative general fund budget for 2003 totaled $407,869 with no tax increase.
The official vote by borough council will take place at next month’s meeting. Council President Wayne Snare was pleased with the approval of the tentative budget.
“There’s no tax increase, so we’re holding taxes and I think if we’re in the black that’s good,” said Snare. “I think that’s one of the biggest things, staying in the black.”
An EADS Group representative, Rick Truscello, presented council a basic overview and an outline of activities for the Home Program Grant Project. Previous information and input has yielded a list of 29 borough residents for consideration under the program and a letter will be sent to those submitting pre-applications requesting additional information.
The maximum project cost eligible for zero percent interest, five year-forgivable loan: up to a total project cost of $20,000. Any project that costs more than the $20,000 threshold will be the responsibility of the homeowner. The rehabilitation activities carried out for every house must bring the house up to code standards.
If the modifications required exceed the grant money being allocated per house ($20,000), and there are no homeowner funds available, then that house will be passed over and the money will go to the next qualified family on the waiting list. The standards of rehabilitation are to comply with minimum housing quality standards as outlined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Councilman Fred Sweigert stated, “It’s taken a year or so, but with the government it’s free money-$300,000 in construction and that’s 15 homes, with 29 total on the list. It’s taken awhile, but you’re talking $20,000 improvements. It helps a lot of people, mostly the elderly and low income, and it’s a great program.
“We have 29 people on the list and this first shot through we’re going to be able to do 15 homes to start, but it’s an ongoing thing,” added Sweigert.
The eligible housing rehabilitation activities may include, but are not limited to, basic rehabilitation activities. These activities include electrical system/wiring, heating (furnace), roof replacement, plumbing, window and door replacement, internal code-related renovations, obvious structure deficiencies (i.e. foundations, wall surfaces, siding, sump pumps), and lead based paint hazards.
Council also addressed the playground equipment issues affecting both the borough and Antis Township. When the grant was applied for, the engineering fees were not included in the original grant which left a $2,000 debt that needed to be paid.
“We found out an engineer had to do the planning for the playground equipment, so Antis Township kicked in $1,000 and we’re kicking in $1,000 to cover the engineering fees with the playground equipment,” said Councilman John Gunsallus.
The engineer doing the planning is Jim Bollibon of Morris Knowles & Associates, Inc. consulting engineers firm. Council designated a park area last night where the old humpback bridge was previously located. The area is designated for a park and now the Park & Recreation Committee has to accept the idea and will be in charge of maintaining the park and keeping it safe.
Plans for the park include a grass-seeded area, benches and a stone encased plaque that will state where the old bridge was located.
The borough put into plans fencing in the borough yard located at North 1st Street and Tuckahoe Street due to safety concerns. When the new bridge was constructed the borough lost ground and gained some ground in the area where the yard is located. Councilman Sweigert explained, “There’s an anti-skid pile there and kids were tunneling in it. Nothing happened but something could have happened, so we’re basically waiting until all the construction and roadwork is done before we fence in the area.”
Council also addressed health coverage rate renewal for borough employees. The current Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage has increased to $111.45 per pay, totaling $2,800 a year, which can be contributed to the September 11th terrorist attacks and other situations that have occurred the past few years. Council wants to look into other plans and explore other options to further benefit their employees.
“We have a basis, we pay $535 and the remainder the employees pick up and they pay their share,” said Snare. “When it went up, the employees are going to have to seek an alternative because it’s going to cost them more.”
The health coverage rate renewal is for the borough employees, and nothing was voted on by council.
Council approved Jim Parsons for hire as a full time highway crew worker. Parsons probation was up and council hired him as a full time borough employee.
Bellwood Borough Council also voted on the installation of several lights at no cost to the borough. A light and pole will be installed at North 8th Street and West Antis. A light will be installed on pole at the corner of Orchard and Station Street. And, a light will be installed on pole at the corner of Martin Street and Station Street.
Solicitor Lee Oswalt reported to council Ordinance #457 involving snow parking and snow removal, but the ordinance will not be advertised officially until council looks thoroughly into the ordinance before accepting it.