It's almost official: Summit Hill and Lansford will work together on a program modeled after the Main Street Initiative in an effort to promote the two communities.

The project is a joint effort by the Summit Hill Community Improvement Committee (SHCIO) and Lansford Alive.

SHCIO approved the project last week by a 6-4 vote with one abstention.

Borough councils in both Lansford and Summit Hill have given approvals to the two groups to continue moving forward with the initiative. Lansford council members stressed, however, that they want input in any major decisions, including the hiring of a manager.

Lansford Alive was first to approve the arrangement, passing it unanimously.

The project is being financed with a $26,000 grant that Lansford Alive possesses and with funds currently in the SHCIO account.

The grant is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The final hurdle, which isn't expected to be a problem, is that Lansford Alive must still get approval from the Department of Agriculture to utilize the grant for this project.

Debra Ranck, president of SHCIO, said the Main Street program is designed to help communities develop their main streets, assist businesses and non-profits, and create jobs.

Although this project isn't under the umbrella of the federally-funded Main Street Program, it will have similar criteria.

It was noted that neither Lansford nor Summit Hill have the population to qualify for individual participation in such a program, but by working jointly they meet the population criteria.

The project passed in SHCIO, despite strong objections from Vice President Sharon Chapman.

Strong support came from Lansford Borough Council President Robert Gaughan, who said, "The Main Street program has been effective in many towns."

He said he's pleased with various joint efforts of the two communities including shared services and working on a Comprehensive Plan.

"Quite frankly, yes, I would be fully in favor and endorse the program," he said.

The next step will be putting together a joint agreement which will be presented to the councils. After that, a full-time, professional downtown manager could be hired.

Ranck said initially the program would last one year and both towns would benefit equally.

She said among some of the goals of the program are:

Ÿ To preserve and strengthen the existing retail, local government, and business centers of Pennsylvania's communities.

Ÿ To improve residents' quality of life by making the traditional downtown more attractive as a place to live and work.

Ÿ To act as a catalyst for small business development; thereby, increasing employment and tax revenues in traditional downtown locations.

Ÿ To formalize a connection between established residential neighborhood areas with downtown revitalization areas.

Ÿ To assist municipalities in preparing and implementing a revitalization strategy for established residential neighborhoods either in the vicinity of a Main Street Program project, or in proximity to an existing commercial district.