Wolf Administration Recognizes Recipients of 2021 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.
“After being faced with an unprecedented pandemic that impacted communities across the state, this year’s awards truly speak to and honor the resilience and proactive efforts of the inspiring Pennsylvania community leaders and groups that we are celebrating today,” said Sec. Davin. “From tackling homelessness, to addressing limited personal protective equipment supplies for older adults and students’ access to online education, and more, these projects have brought critical services and assistance to residents in need statewide and in many cases position communities for long term success in their project areas.”
Ten communities, five organizations, and eight individuals from across the commonwealth were recognized for excellent service as part of the 25th Annual Governor’s Awards for Local Government Excellence.
The following local government officials were recognized for their dedication to public service and their communities:
- Jeffrey Snyder, Commissioner, Clinton County (nominated by County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania)
- Peter Wulfhorst, Extension Educator with Penn State Extension, (nominated by PA American Planning Association)
- Gene Miller, Supervisor, Pinegrove Township, Venango County (nominated by PA Council of Governments)
- Dwight D. Hoare, Manager, St. Mary’s Area Water Authority, Elk County (nominated by Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association)
- Danene Sorace, Mayor, Lancaster, Lancaster County (nominated by Pennsylvania Municipal League)
- Thomas C. Gramling, Sr., Councilman, Westmont Borough, Cambria County (nominated by Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs)
- Nathan Silcox, Hampden Township Commissioner, Cumberland County (nominated by Commissioners)
- Kathy Rader, Township Supervisor, Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County, (nominated by Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors)
The following municipalities, organizations, and counties were recognized:
Building Community Partnerships
The AllOne Foundation created a public-private partnership, known as the NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program, which raised over $1 million and quickly became a national model of efficiency in delivering personal protection equipment to more than 30 nursing homes in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Fountain Hill Borough
Fountain Hill Borough Manager Anthony Branco has secured millions of dollars of grants for the borough and made many necessary improvements to municipal operations including enhancements to a public works facility, vehicle upgrades for the fire department, security measures in the borough office, and a reconstruction of a major roadway.
Fiscal Accountability and Best Management Practices
Worcester Township implemented the comprehensive Volunteer Fire Department Support program to help support the Worcester Volunteer Fire Department. This program allows the township to support the volunteer model without the need to establish a full-time paid department that could cost the community over $2 million per year.
The Community Mediation Eviction Diversion program prevented an unprecedented wave of homelessness during the pandemic. Through a collaboration of county departments, non-profit organizations, and the local court system, Northampton County and its partners have been able to satisfy overdue rent payments—enabling over 400 households to remain in their homes while alleviating the financial encumbrance from landlords, thereby mitigating evictions and reducing the burden on the local court system.
Town of McCandless
McCandless underwent a communications overhaul, adding new channels of information sharing and increasing shared information, including town website enhancements, a new town Facebook page, a new town YouTube channel, a new Savvy Citizen cell phone texting/app—allowing anyone in the Northern Allegheny region to access community and neighboring community events—and the upcoming launch of both a town Twitter account and a town television channel.
Council Vice President of Millbourne Borough Nurul Hasan assisted his community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During periods of high case count over the past year, Dr. Hasan responded to his communities’ need for assistance by providing food items, medicine, and other provisions for those self-isolating during the pandemic.
Innovative Community/Governmental Initiatives
Plainfield Township installed the LifeAire Systems UV Biological Remediation System at the Plainfield Township Municipal Building utilizing CARES Act funds and reduced the exposure of officials, public employees, law enforcement officers and any visitors of the Municipal Building to airborne pathogens including but not limited to COVID-19, effectively assisting the township with resuming normal public service delivery and operations.
South Whitehall Township
As President of the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners, Christina “Tori” Morgan has worked to create a community that invites cooperation and innovation across municipal boundaries and has led and conceptualized many projects which have fostered and developed beneficial outcomes for all organizations involved. The Jordan Creek Greenway is a 14-mile trail that will traverse through four municipalities in Lehigh County and the finished trail will connect Allentown, Whitehall, South Whitehall, North Whitehall, and the Trexler Nature Preserve. South Whitehall Township has recently completed nearly one mile of the greenway and continues plans to build an additional two miles within the next two to three years. The planned two-mile extension will safely connect Parkland High School to Covered Bridge Park, South Whitehall’s largest and most heavily used park.
Innovative Planning & Sound Land Use Practices
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC)
The commission created FutureLV, the first plan for the Lehigh Valley—and among the few in the nation—to link comprehensive planning to transportation infrastructure funding, enabling the region to put the force of its $2.5 billion Long-Range Transportation Plan behind its land use recommendations. Further, when COVID-19 mitigation efforts closed schools, through a partnership with the LVPC, the local district identified families that didn’t have connectivity and where they lived through LVPC Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping so computers and hot spots could be directed to students in need. The partnership connected thousands of students to virtual learning. Additionally, through a unique partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the LVPC developed a regional tool to identify households struggling with housing and individuals at risk of losing their jobs. The LVPC’s Foreclosure and Eviction Risk tool is providing governments, non-profit and community leaders the tools they need to direct limited resources to where they can have the greatest impact.
Lower South Valley Council of Governments (LSVCOG) and Mountain Council of Governments (MCOG) LSVCOG and MCOG built regional inspection teams that coordinated random inspections of businesses in regional industrial parks. The COVID-19 Regional Code Enforcement Partnership informed companies they must implement COVID-19 Safety Guidelines and the guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Building and Safety Measures order, enforced all municipal code violations at company facilities, reported any COVID-19 violations to federal and state authorities, and established a website to address and accept complaints regarding COVID-19 safety violations.
Promoting Community/Economic Revitalization
Tri-COG Land Bank (TCLB)
TCLB was created in 2017 and is a leader in the Allegheny County region’s initiative to address blight and revitalize communities. TCLB transfers vacant and abandoned properties to productive use through an innovative process that leverages intergovernmental cooperation and cross-sector partnerships. Its unique membership structure brings together 22 municipalities, six school districts, and Allegheny County to coordinate solutions and pool resources. The creation of TCLB and its process for transforming blighted properties into community assets will significantly improve the safety, health, and economic vitality in communities.
City of Clairton
The Clairton Inn is a mixed-use redevelopment at the primary intersection of Clairton’s central business district. Strategically revitalizing the key “main street” block will create critically needed affordable housing and opportunities for new and established businesses, including potentially a new home for the Clairton Public Library. Strategic demolition of other blighted structures will make way for a newly constructed residential and commercial mixed-use building that will seamlessly connect to the fully renovated historic Clairton Inn building. This development positions Clairton for a resurgence with its location within walking distance to a variety of amenities.
City of Aliquippa
Mayor Dwan B. Walker and Councilman Donald Walker have been the driving forces for building a solid economic future for Aliquippa through parks facilities upgrades, financial management and technology, infrastructure improvements, establishing the Aliquippa Economic Development Corporation, entering the Neighborhood Partnership Program, undertaking blight removal in residential and commercial districts, establishing a digital media center at the library, partnering with the Salvation Army for food assistance, connecting the PA Job Training Center with Aliquippa residents, developing a blight strategy plan with the PA Housing Alliance, engaging in the Local Foods, Local Places program, partnering with Communicycle to train youths to repair/re-use bicycles, supporting Aliquippa Impact for youth programming, establishing a Qualified Opportunity Zone, engaging an economic development specialist to develop the East End project and a residential development, updating land use regulations, improving the quality of policing through training and updated policies, rules, and regulations, and working with state/county/federal officials to obtain resources, technical support, and inspiration for community support.
Responding to Adversity
Local Government Academy
Local Government Academy, an independent non-partisan organization promoting excellence in local government, transitioned their learning experiences to a digital format during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Academy quickly and successfully pivoted to an online format to allow for both synchronous and asynchronous remote learning experiences. Transitioning to remote learning extended the service area beyond Southwestern Pennsylvania to span the 25 counties across the commonwealth.
Delaware County responded to the pandemic and related mitigation orders by creating the Delco Strong Small Business Support Program. Launched in April 2020 without any CARES Act Funding, the program provided over $16 million in grants to over 1,500 small businesses and non-profits and helped to maintain over 5,600 jobs from disappearing throughout 2020. The program was extremely responsive to county needs, offering four different rounds of grants during 2020, and revising its application to improve accessibility to the program to a wider variety of struggling enterprises.
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, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Casey Smith, DCED, firstname.lastname@example.org