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Bellwood Borough gives tentative approval for LERTA designation

Although most of Bellwood Borough is residential, community leaders are hoping a tax program will entice business and industry to settle in the small town and bring more jobs to Northern Blair County.
Last evening, a less-than-full borough council gave tentative approval to grant the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act. Those voting “yes” included John Gunsallus, Wayne Snare, Tom Lechner, Fred Sweigert, Leonard Cherry. Don Walker and Sue Johnson were not present at the meeting.
“If we can get people to come in, then I’d be willing to take a look at it,” said Sweigert. “I know we don’t have a lot of space for business or industry, but I feel it’s important that if someone does want to establish a business here, we can compete with other areas.”
According to borough solicitor Lee Oswalt of Altoona, the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation is asking a number of Northern Blair County municipalities to consider passing the act, which would provide tax breaks for a five year period in designated areas of each municipality.
Those who have already passed the LERTA designation include Blair County, Bellwood-Antis School District, Tyrone Borough and Tyrone Area School District. Antis Township has decided not to adopt the Act. Snyder Township, last evening, had scheduled a public meeting to discuss the designation, but decided to take action on the measure Aug. 18 at a special meeting.
According to Oswalt, the designation would mean any business or industry wishing to move into a LERTA area would be provided total tax-free status for the first year, 80 percent in the second year, 60 percent in the third year, 40 percent in the fourth year and 50 percent in the final year. After the fifth year, all taxes would be collected.
Oswalt informed council that it could designate certain areas of the borough as a LERTA zone, or the entire borough.
Wayne Snare, the council’s president, told council it would be a good idea to look at a LERTA-designated zone on Main Street and near the Wolf’s Furniture distribution center.
“Why not include the entire borough,” asked fellow council member John Gunsallus. “Because there is limited areas for businesses to come into, why not just make the whole thing a LERTA district.”
The council agreed and voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on the matter prior to the next board meeting. The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on September 1.