Tamaqua Borough Council held its first hearing to determine how to spend the borough's 2012 Community Development Block Grant disbursement. This year's allocation is $103,203, down from $121,679 in 2011.
Proposed activities must meet one of three objectives in order to qualify for funding. They must principally benefit low and moderate income individuals, they must aid in the prevention or elimination of blight, or they must alleviate an immediate threat to the health and safety of the community.
Under the CDBG requirements, 18% of the grant must go towards administration costs. In addition to that, the borough's draft list included two or three properties to be demolished, at an approximate cost of $30,950, street reconstruction projects, at an approximate cost of $13,178, $8,000 for parking meter upgrades, and $32,500 for a pool cover for the Bungalow pool.
Resident Tony Rodrigue questioned the need to spend $8000 on parking meters. Councilman David Mace explained that the current meters are no longer being manufactures. "Spare parts are becoming more and more difficult to obtain," he said. The borough plans to replace the meters with a new model that is digital. Rodrigue asked why the borough would consider spending $8000 on new meters, when, according to him, "three quarters of the time over half the meters are expired anyway." "We have cars parked in the business area eight or ten hours a day. People either feed the meters or take their chances on whether or not they get a ticket," he added.
Rodrigue also questioned whether or not the proposed pool cover would actually save the borough enough money in pool cleaning fees to warrant the expenditure. Councilman Brian Connely echoed Rodrigue's concerns. "I understand the cleaning fees, we do invest a lot of money there," he said, but he recommended that the borough pursue other funding for the pool cover. "I'd much rather see us put the money into street reconstruction than into that pool," he said. Connely suggested that the $32,500 that is proposed for the pool cover be divided into more money for the parking meters and street reconstruction.
While the pool was being discussed, Councilman John Trudich said that the women's bathhouse is going to need to be replaced after the upcoming summer season. "We'll get this year out of it, but then it should be torn down and rebuilt," he said.
Another project that was not included in the original list but was brought to the table was the plan to construct a parking lot at Spruce and Hunter Streets. "This is a five or six year old plan from the South Ward Committee for the parking lot," said Council president Micah Gursky. "It was included in the plans, but there wasn't any funding." Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt said that there might be an issue as that area of Hunter Street is not considered low to moderate income. Additionally, the project would cost more than would be available through the CDBG program. Council discussed several options, including completion of sidewalk upgrades one year, and then following up with more improvements at a later date.
Council will hold another hearing to discuss the final project list on May 1.