Wolf Administration Recognizes Recipients of 2019 Governor’s Awards for Local Government Excellence
Harrisburg, PA – On behalf of Governor Tom Wolf, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin today recognized municipalities and local government officials for their dedication and commitment to strengthen their communities and better serve their residents.
“With all the attention paid to federal and state politics, it’s easy to overlook that the level of government that has the greatest impact on an individual’s day-to-day life is on the local level,” Secretary Davin said. “When local governments go above and beyond by implementing new technologies, forming new partnerships, or developing new ways to tackle their problems, that has a huge effect on residents’ quality of life. The purpose of these awards is to commend those municipalities and individuals that showed incredible service to their communities.”
Nine communities and ten individuals from across the commonwealth were recognized for excellent service as part of the 23rd Annual Governor’s Awards for Local Government Excellence.
The following local government officials were recognized for their dedication to public service and their communities:
- Edward Brensinger, Supervisor, North Lebanon Township, Lebanon County (nominated by PA State Association of Township Supervisors)
- Thomas M. Oliverio, Mayor, Zelienople Borough, Butler County (nominated by PA State Association of Boroughs)
- William S. Rossey, Immediate Past President, PA State Association of Boroughs; Borough Manager, Sharpsburg Borough, Allegheny County (nominated by PA State Association of Boroughs)
- Michael Higgins, President, PA State Association of Township Commissioners; Commissioner, Aston Township, Delaware County (nominated by PA State Association of Township Commissioners)
- Matt Pacifico, Mayor, City of Altoona, Blair County (nominated by PA Municipal League)
- Fiore Leone, Council Member, Erie County (nominated by County Commissioners Association of PA)
- L. Stewart Neff, Supervisor, Warriors Mark Township, Huntingdon County (nominated by PA Association of Councils of Governments)
- Dr. Stanford Lembeck, Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute, State College, Centre County (nominated by PA Chapter of American Planning Association)
- Daniel J. Becker, Chairman, East Cocalico Township Authority, Lancaster County (nominated by PA Municipal Authorities Association)
- Matthew A. Cranmer, Manager, Municipal Water Authority of Adams Township, Butler County (nominated by PA Municipal Authorities Association)
The following municipalities, organizations, and counties were recognized:
Building Community Partnerships
Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County
The Westmoreland County Firefighters Initiative (WestCoFire) was formed out of a partnership among Hempfield Township, the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, Westmoreland County Community College, Hempfield Bureau of Fire, and the volunteer fire departments of Westmoreland County. The purpose of WestCoFire is to ensure the sustainability of the volunteer firefighting corps for the county’s future. Hempfield Township recognized the challenges that volunteer fire departments are facing and took it upon themselves to secure the partners and resources necessary to develop the SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant proposal that enlisted the county’s fire departments to increase the number of firefighters. Eighty-three of the county’s fire stations agreed to participate in the regional SAFER grant application hosted by the Hempfield Bureau of Fire which was created from the proceeds of the sale of the township’s municipal authority. The grant provides money for physical exams and insurance policies, tuition reimbursement, training costs, stipends for responding to calls, and marketing for recruitment. With the WestCoFire initiative, fire departments will be able to respond with sufficient numbers of competent, trained, and certified firefighters for all calls throughout the county.
Responding to Adversity
Bethel Park, Allegheny County
On, June 20, 2018, Bethel Park witnessed a historic flooding event. The flood prompted a collaborative response, with neighbors assisting neighbors with flood clean-up and garbage removal. Local businesses donated food, cleaning supplies, and other items to help in the clean-up and recovery efforts. Contractors volunteered their time and services to repair electrical, plumbing, and structural systems. Municipal Council, Mayor Jack Allen, and municipal staff worked tirelessly to help residents recover and get infrastructure repaired quickly. The local emergency management coordinator organized an event to allow residents to come in and speak with representatives from numerous government and nonprofit agencies to find the help for their specific problem. Local municipalities and other government agencies offered assistance in the form of providing engineers and equipment to help speed up recovery. Municipal Council subsequently faced the difficult decision to increase taxes, in part to fund storm water projects to help reduce the damaging effects of future flood events and to reduce pollutant discharges into local waterways. These projects make Bethel Park a stronger community by reducing the effects of flooding on homes and businesses and improving the water quality for Bethel Park and downstream municipalities.
Promoting Community and Economic Revitalization
Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization, City of Lancaster, Lancaster County
Over the last decade, the Lancaster Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization has secured nearly $1 billion of private investment in the city. That investment has come in the form of projects as diverse as the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, the Clipper Magazine Stadium, and the revitalization of Lancaster Square. Lancaster Square is one of the lone holdovers from the negative effects of urban renewal and represents some of the challenges Lancaster faced – a time when Lancaster had blighted properties, an uninviting downtown, and a bleak economic future. A revitalized Lancaster Square brings numerous tangible and intangible benefits to the city. The nearly $30 million invested in the redevelopment project at 101 North Queen Street will help increase the city’s property tax revenue, and the new restaurants and boutiques will add even more quality of life to the downtown. Over the last decade, Lancaster has found itself on several culinary, livability, and travel top ten lists.
Innovative Community and Governmental Initiatives
The Reading Bridges Workgroup, Reading City, Berks County
The Reading Bridges workgroup was created as a public-private partnership between the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, the Berks County commissioners, the City of Reading, the borough of West Reading, PennDOT, and several local businesses. The workgroup brought together a diverse group of partners to discuss current and future priority road and bridge projects in the greater Reading area. The partnership kept Reading vibrant during construction of two major bridge projects. It identified issues, evaluated opportunities, and developed a communication strategy to disseminate information through the ReadingBridges.net website. The group facilitated special meetings with local business owners and residents to discuss detour routes and alternatives to driving. PennDOT has shared the success of the Reading Bridges Partnership as an example for the statewide PennDOT Connects initiative, showcasing ways to foster better collaboration with communities on transportation projects.
Fiscal Accountability & Best Management Practices
Milton Borough, Northumberland County
Borough Manager Chuck Beck and Secretary/Treasurer Shelly Sandstrom worked to complete a borough-wide survey which qualified Milton as a low- and moderate-income community, allowing the use of Community Development Block Grant funding throughout the borough without the necessity of qualifying each individual neighborhood. The police department and borough hall underwent major renovations through grants and reserve funds with no financing necessary. Additionally, the borough was able to invest over $1 million into interest-bearing accounts adding increased revenue for the borough. Beck and Sandstrom moved the borough’s three pension plans that had been losing money to a different company resulting in an average gain of 15 percent in interest, providing substantial savings to Milton each year. They also worked to provide in-house labor and equipment to help complete the Brown Avenue and Columbia Avenue Park projects, saving residents’ money that would have had to be expended if contracted out. Finally, they cross-trained the borough management staff and created savings to the taxpayers by modifying the borough’s recycling program.
Innovative Planning & Sound Land Use Practices
Middletown Township, Delaware County
To combat economic challenges, Middletown Township is redeveloping the Granite Run Mall into the Promenade, a mixed-use retail and housing development that can serve as a model for other struggling malls across the commonwealth. The township also created a multi-tract master plan for the shuttered Franklin Mint that will benefit the residents and community for decades to come. Part of the restoration of the Franklin Mint includes working with SEPTA to develop a Transit Revitalization Investment District that will finance infrastructure improvements within the district.
Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments
Blight is a massive problem in this area of Pennsylvania. In 2012, the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments (COG) partnered with the Steel Rivers COG to quantify the damaging effects of blight. The analysis found that within the collaboration’s 40 municipalities, the cost of blight was staggering. Turtle Creek Valley COG focused on effective code enforcement, which is important to not only maintain healthy and safe communities for the residents also to reverse the damaging effects of blight. In March 2015 the COG, in conjunction with the Borough of Churchill and Wilkins Township, initiated the pilot code enforcement program. In 2019, the program added Chalfant Borough, East McKeesport Borough, and Wilmerding Borough. The shared services code enforcement program’s two key tenets of success are its professional certified staff and its use of innovative technology and database systems. Additionally, inspectors meet regularly to discuss best practices and share information about problem property owners.
Mercer, Lawrence, Butler, and Venango Counties
The counties of Mercer, Lawrence, Butler and Venango joined in a partnership in which they jointly purchased a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for their respective 9-1-1 centers. The CAD system operates as the brain of any 9-1-1 center. Until now, each county 9-1-1 center has deployed its own CAD system in a silo, meaning the CAD systems were not “talking” to each other and contained only individual county information. With the joint CAD system that these counties purchased, now one 9-1-1 center can put any unit from all four counties on any call, eliminating duplication of calls to different departments in different counties. This will save valuable time and possibly save the lives of their residents. With the new system, the call will be done by the home dispatcher, thus saving valuable time and resources. The new system will have a host site in Butler County and a disaster recovery site in Lawrence County. This will enable all four counties to be able to operate on a regular basis and in disaster recovery mode should a problem occur.
Health and Wellness Initiatives
Bethlehem City, Easton City, and Northampton County
Northampton County has partnered with the cities of Bethlehem and Easton, their respective health agencies, and the medical and education communities to form a coalition to tackle the public health effects of lead-based paint on young children. The coalition launched a campaign to reach out to low-income families using various means of communication, including brochures in several languages and having medical providers directly refer affected individuals to the coalition’s resources for lead abatement. The coalition has developed certified contractors for lead hazard removal and has garnered national attention for how it has developed partnerships that involve all aspects of the community. Elements of this program are being used throughout the nation as a model showing how truly vested partners can improve the overall health of a community.
The Governor’s Center for Local Government Services sponsors Local Government Day annually to honor local governments and officials who serve their communities and improve their quality of life. For more information about the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services or the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Michael Gerber, DCED, 717.783.1132