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Mifflin Co. officials say yes to funds committee

Commissioners approve checking of applications for virus relief grants

LEWISTOWN — A committee that will review applications for funds from a relief block grant program for individuals who have been impacted by the pandemic was approved Thursday by the Mifflin County Commissioners.

The commissioners heard a presentation from Mifflin County Planning Director Mark Colussy regarding the formation of an Ad-hoc Review Committee that would be compromised of individuals from the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Lewistown Incorporated and the Mifflin County Planning Department who, with oversight from the county commissioners, would look at how to best help individual agencies with available funds.

“In particular, we are looking at helping municipalities, broadband providers, nonprofit agencies and small businesses all with their unique individual needs as to why they need relief, so we have been in the process in the past few months, of developing programs that can provide relief through different agencies,” Colussy said.

Colussy said the county is developing a web page that would provide information about grant opportunities available.

“We are excited to be able to release that,” he said.

Colussy said the committee would be in charge of reviewing applications, but the commissioners would ultimately give final approval.

Commissioner Kevin Kodish said the funds were made available as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, then passed through the state.

“Pennsylvania has determined an allocation schedule for rural counties, passing a portion of these funds ($4.1 million) directly to Mifflin County. Our board has consulted with many stakeholders in order to determine where these funds can have the greatest impact,” he said.

The relief grant program is intended to offset the loss of revenue and increased expenses brought about as a consequence of containing the pandemic.

“Stay-at-home orders, as promulgated by the governor’s office, have negatively affected most facets of our economy. Our restaurant/tourism industry has suffered greatly, seeing an abrupt stop of customer revenues, while needing to invest considerable money into personal protective equipment/PPE, plexiglass partitions and a major reduction of indoor serving capacity,” Kodish said. “We understand that $4.1 million will not completely alleviate the losses our communities endured. It is our hope these dollars will be a shot-in-the-arm, filling the holes that might be left from businesses and organizations who were able to qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program/PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loan/EIDL program or Pennsylvania’s Certified Development Finance Institutions/CDFI grant program. Those businesses and organizations who were not able to qualify are of particular interest to us and will receive priority consideration. If you own or manage a small business, nonprofit or local government located in Mifflin County, we would encourage you to monitor updates that matches your type of organization and learn how to qualify for grant funds to help out during these trying times.”

The board also approved a professional services agreement with SEDA-Council of Governments related to the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant Program.

In unrelated news, the board rejected an offer of $1 for each of four parcels located in Lewistown Borough that are currently in repository for unsold properties, as well as an offer for $1,000 for three properties in Lewistown Borough.

Commissioner Rob Postal said the board would offer a meeting with individuals bidding on repositories regarding their intent for redevelopment.

“In the past, repository properties were sold for minimum amounts. Sometimes they were developed, sometimes they weren’t. I think our interest, together with our blight remediation program and our interest is to see these properties redeveloped and brought up to code and we offer meetings with any bidder to tell us what their intent is and enter into an agreement with the county.”

Mifflin County Solicitor Steve Snook added that the county would like to see bidders present a formal written plan for properties in the repository.

“It’s not that we’re upset that these bids are low … the real issue is, what are you willing to commit to in writing in the future that we can hold you to so that we don’t give you a property for a buck and it just stays there and never gets improved and never gets razed?” Snook said. “Commissioners are certainly supportive of blight remediation, particularly in the borough. These are not rejected without a lot of thought, but what the commissioners want to see is some kind of written development plan that these bidders are willing to commit to.”

The board also approved the commitment of $15,000 from the Act 152 Account for a project in Lewistown Borough that addresses blight remediation.

Downtown Lewistown Incorporated Executive Director Jim Zubler said DLI has the opportunity to apply for a $300,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for a “severely deteriorated building” at the corner of Third and Valley streets.

The grant requires a 10 percent match and Lewistown Borough has already agreed to committing 5 percent, or $15,000, to the project, Zubler said.

The board also took the following action:

¯Amended the action taken on May 21 to exonerate Armagh Township Tax Collector Linda Marks from collecting 13 2020 per capita tax bills;

¯Exonerated the 2018 supplemental county real estate tax bill and relieved the tax collector from collecting a $56.54 bill from a Bratton Township property for a building that was constructed in 2019;

¯Approved a domestic relations title IV-D cooperative agreement for Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2025;

¯Approved the Mifflin County Domestic Relations Constable Agreements for the period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2025 for Paul Bollinger and Jeffrey Sprankle;

¯Approved an intergovernmental agreement between Mifflin County Domestic Relations and Mifflin County Sheriff to provide security for Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2025;

¯Approved an intergovernmental agreement between Mifflin County Domestic Relations and Mifflin County Sheriff for warrant service for Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2025;

¯Approved an intergovernmental agreement between Mifflin County Domestic Relations and Mifflin County District Attorney to provide legal services for Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2025;

¯Approved a grant agreement for the competitive VOCA Grant Program between Mifflin County Crime Victim and Wellspring Counseling for the period of June 1 through Sept. 30 in the amount of $6,720;

¯Approved a three-year electrical inspector agreement with AAA Electrical Inspection Service for the County Housing Rehabilitation Program Funded by HOME, CDBG or Act 137 Programs;

¯Approved an engagement letter with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC, Harrisburg for the 2019 County Audit;

¯Approved the following personnel changes: hired Paula Hoffman for part-time planning clerk, effective Aug. 3; appointed Tyler Stein as an unpaid sheriff intern, effective July 27; promoted Barbara Reyes from Children and Youth Caseworker I to Caseworker II, effective Aug. 3; rescinded the hiring of Carli Boreman as part-time corrections officer; hired Bryanna Metz and Franklin Stevens V as part-time corrections officers effective Aug. 3; Hired Melissa Wilson as part-time LPN, effective Aug. 17.

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