Valencia takes step to deal with financial issues

July 10, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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VALENCIA — A plan to help stabilize borough finances advanced June 26 as council members narrowed their choice of consultant proposals for recovery.

The actions were taken as part of the borough's quest to take advantage of the Pennsylvania Early Intervention Program through the Department of Community and Economic Development.

The program provides matching grant funds to aid struggling municipalities in developing financial plans and establishing goals. Municipalities that qualify can receive up to $200,000 for 50 percent of the project's total cost.

The current $125,894 budget took $39,483 from the borough's savings to cover increased costs of fire and police protection, new stormwater management regulations, mandated 911 radio upgrades and recurring engineering costs. It also took an additional $20,000 from savings to fund efforts through the program.

The borough submitted its request for proposals seeking consultants to gather and analyze data to create a five-year financial forecast earlier this year. On Wednesday, council members reviewed three submitted proposals: from Grass Root Solutions, Delta Development Group and the Pennsylvania Economy League.

Shanon McKenna, council vice president, said only one proposal was originally submitted, and he sought two additional respondents.

Council eliminated Delta Development Group from the running because members said the proposal lacked a specific technical plan.

Moving forward, members will schedule in-person interviews with Grass Roots Solutions and the Pennsylvania Economy League, and created a list of questions for each. Council also will check references and do additional research before making a final choice.

Of note, members said they want to make sure the chosen consultant is available for future meetings and can provide in-depth data analysis, not only of the borough's current financial situation, but also what projections indicate is likely to happen in the next five years.

McKenna said the data gathered, and the plan created, will be crucial to the borough's financial future. He cited a payment in-lieu of taxes agreement with St. Barnabas Health Systems that expires within the next five years as an example of how the data gathered could prove beneficial.

“I view this as a way to persuade entities like St. Barnabas when it comes time to renegotiate or to even explain to the community what our true financial condition is,” McKenna said.

Council President Brian Himmelstein added that their final choice of a consultant is not as important as how much data the borough will get for their money, and how they will be able to use it.

An additional step taken by borough officials to improve finances includes enacting the first zoning ordinance in Valencia's 121-year history. It aims to preserve the town's residential areas while steering commercial and business development toward the southwest portion of the borough.

There has also been discussion on merging with Adams Township, although officials there said they are not interested. McKenna said the consultant will work to determine if there are ways to make a merger more attractive to the township.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.