Renovo Council recognizes volunteers, student essay winner

KEVIN RAUCH/FOR THE EXPRESS Renovo Borough Council recognized groups that positively impact Renovo through volunteerism at last week’s meeting. From left are Dave Watt of the Pennsylvania State Flaming Foliage Committee, Ann Marie Simon of Pennsylvania Railroad and Rich Wykoff of Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park. The Bucktail Area High School’s Construction Trades class was also recognized, but students were not in attendance due to a high school baseball game.

RENOVO — Renovo Borough Council had some special guests at last week’s meeting — the Clinton County Commissioners,

Commissioners Pete Smeltz, Jeff Snyder and Paul Conklin were at council’s monthly meeting to declare proclamations citing April 9-13 as “Local Government Week” and then spent some time with council talking candidly about various issues.

Renovo council members used the opportunity to express some of what they see as “flaws” in the sale of repository properties.

Repository properties are those that are essentially left in disrepair and abandoned by owners. They remain unsold after a judicial sale.

A property that remains unsold following a judicial sale supposedly can be offered for sale at a repository sale.

KEVIN RAUCH/FOR THE EXPRESS Renovo Mayor Tom Tarantella Jr., right, presented Bucktail Area High School student Gabriel Janerella with a certificate as winner of the essay contest. The topic was “What local government means to me.” Gabe is the son of Vito and Wendy Janerella of North Bend.

Renovo has had its share of repository properties.

In fact, council is fed up with these properties because they perpetuate blight and negatively affect the tax base.

Snyder told council that the biggest reason for a repository sale it to prevent blight.

The hope is that a person will buy the house and fix it up.

Smeltz said the county cannot do spot tax assessments on one particular house.

The conversation went back and forth, with both sides expressing mutual and different points of view.

Smeltz said commissioners would take council’s concerns to their legislative bodies.

Both sides agreed that, in a perfect world, a property re-assessment should take place one year following the purchase of a repository sale.

Smeltz also said that local municipalities should have some type of input before a sale is finalized, adding that local knowledge of bad property owners should be able to play a role the purchase.

Councilwoman Rhonda Balchun asked the commissioners if they had any thoughts on ACT 172 — an order that would give small tax breaks to volunteer emergency responders.

During last month’s meeting, Renovo Fire Chief Jim Risley asked council to consider opting in to Act 172, or the Health and Safety Incentives

On Nov. 21, 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 172, which authorizes municipalities to grant fire and emergency medical service (EMS) volunteers tax credits for local taxes. The new law took effect on Jan. 20, 2017, and was added as a new chapter to the Disaster Emergency Assistance Act.

Under Act 172, a municipality can decide the amount of credit available for a volunteer’s local earned income tax, but the amount of real property tax credit cannot exceed 20 percent of the volunteer’s tax liability.

Only volunteers who apply and qualify for the Volunteer Service Credit Program are eligible for tax credits. To be eligible, a volunteer must submit an application for certification to the chief of the volunteer fire company or the supervisor or chief of the nonprofit emergency medical services agency where the volunteer serves.

Smeltz said Act 172 is explicitly for municipal taxes and that county taxes do not enter into the equation.

He said finding volunteers for any organization is becoming increasingly hard, a sentiment that all local fire companies have echoed.

Risley called Act 172 a small recruiting tool to get members and keep them active.

Council has not decided if it will participate in Act 172.

In keeping with the local government theme, council recognized groups that positively impact Renovo through volunteerism.

Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park, Flaming Foliage Festival, Pennsylvania Railroad and the Bucktail Area High School’s Construction Trades class were all recognized for their years of service to the community.

Council also presented Bucktail student Gabriel Janerella with a certificate following a request made by council member Pattie Rauch for an essay contest on what local government meant to them.

Balchun said Janeralla’s essay was chosen as the best and the contest overall “had a really good response.”

Much of Mayor Tom Tarantella’s monthly report continued the night’s evolvement around local government.

Tarantella was a guest at a Rotary meeting a couple of nights earlier and explained that, in writing his speech, he was asked what he wants to accomplish as mayor.

He said he graduated from Bucktail in a class of 48 students and that only five remained in the area.

Tarantella said he would love to see more kids want to stay after they graduate and he feels it is local elected officials’ job to make that happen through improvements to the community.

Rich Wykoff said Heritage Park is hosting a “Love Bomb” photo opportunity at the coal tipple on Friday, April 20, at 4 p.m.

Local artists or anyone in the communityis invited to bring any sign or piece of “love” they have and to stand in front of the tipple for a picture.

The “Love Bomb” photo is an idea of celebration due to the tipple recently being named to the “Preservation Pennsylvania At Risk List,” as the non-profit recognized four new structures statewide that they will help to preserve. The tipple is owned by the Greater Renovo Area Heritage Park.