EVANS CITY — Growth and development were the main topics at Monday's council meeting, with officials urging the borough to make the most of opportunities to repair and revitalize the small town.
Evans City council members and residents discussed opportunities for future growth and development in the borough, beginning with an address by Mark Gordon, chief of economic development and planning in Butler County.
Gordon outlined his recommendations for the borough, including collaborating with other communities, crafting a comprehensive plan for growth, and utilizing the county infrastructure bank, which offers low interest loans to municipalities.
“State and federal funding continues to get reduced and reduced and reduced. But as a result, when they see communities working with one another with some set of common goals and objectives they tend to get greater consideration for those kinds of funds,” he said.
The county has already begun working with Harmony, Mars and Zelienople, he said.
Gordon also emphasized the importance of long-term planning, especially when it comes to developing abandoned properties.
“You will have a couple abandoned properties and how they become repurposed can be critically important, especially with the size and the space of the school,” he said. “What I would encourage you to do is to get a subset of the business community, the residents and elected officials, to sit down and start brainstorming some ideas on what you want the landscape here to look like, whether it's retail, commercial, residential, professional services.”
This would allow the borough to focus its efforts on guiding growth and development as officials seek to encourage it in their community.
“Once you do that we can sit down and start working with a couple developers to try and see how these spaces can be used to accommodate,” he said.
Gordon encouraged the borough to look into the county infrastructure bank offerings.
The bank offers loans to communities at a low interest rate of 1.9 percent.
He said the county is already working with communities that hope to make use of this initiative to begin infrastructure programs they otherwise would be unable to fund.
Gordon also highlighted some challenges, including few homes on the market along with uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Seneca Valley School District's Evans City Elementary School and a few other borough buildings.
Some residents expressed skepticism at taking on loans and whether the borough would be able to attract development or new residents even with new investments in infrastructure and revitalization.
Gordon said he didn't disagree that grants would be beneficial, but that state money was becoming increasingly hard to come by.
Lee Dyer, council president, said improvement efforts would not be without challenges but that they could be accomplished if borough officials and residents work together.
Council also voted to sent a letter to the school district requesting a chance to discuss the district thoughts and plans for the elementary school.
“The disposition of the existing building is of extreme importance to our community,” the letter read. “There are individuals and organizations(,) interest and ideas as to the best use of the buildings. These ideas include a senior center with housing, an urgent care center with additional health care resources, apartments or condos, small businesses, a municipal building, etc.”
The council requested the school board engage with the borough as it decides what to do with the property and mentioned a few ideas for what could come next.
The letter closed with a request that the district continue to engage with the borough as it decides what to do with the school.