Shenango Township residents next year might see a new light tax and might see the end of a per capita tax.
Meeting on Thursday night, township supervisors Brandon Rishel and chairman Frank Augustine said they have begun preliminary meetings on the 2020 budget. Supervisor Albert Burick III was absent.
One area under consideration, they said, is to extend the light tax to all township residents. Currently, Rishel said, only residents who live at intersections where street lights are located pay the tax.
“In most municipalities everyone pays the light tax,” he said. If more paid the tax, he said, more street lighting could be installed. Rishel said he’d like to see street lights at every intersection that has a stop sign. A light tax, he said, would be a flat rate paid by all property owners. No figure has yet been named.
“I see this as a safety factor. Everyone would benefit to see more lights along Routes 422 and 65 where it can be dark and desolate.”
Rishel said this is not a certainty, but is under discussion by the supervisors.
Another item under discussion is doing away with the $10 per capita tax.
“This is hard to collect. We are not getting updated lists and periodically the county goes after delinquent taxpayers and collects more than we get,” Rishel said.
He added that the tax brings in about $15,000 per year “which is not much when considering our $3 million budget.”
Interest in light improvements stemmed from a hearing on the Route 422/65 Corridor study. The hearing was held prior to Thursday’s meeting. The supervisors voted to add the 112-page study to the Shenango Township Comprehensive Plan of 2017.
The study, Augustine said, was done in 2018 and involved the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Southwest Pennsylvania Commission, Lawrence County Planning Commission, the supervisors, New Castle Area Transit Authority and others.
Completed by WRA Engineering Co., the study looked at signs, sidewalks, pedestrian walkways, intersections and other factors that could improve the area to make it more attractive to prospective residents and developers from the Pittsburgh area.
Augustine said the plan is expected to be available soon online to anyone who wants to read it.
The supervisors also announced they will be offering part-time jobs to four candidates to assist zoning officer Justin Data. The jobs will be 10 to 16 hours per week.
Augustine said the four will deal with code enforcement, roads, the park and public safety. Funds to pay the new employees, he said, come from the assistant zoning officer post which had been a full-time job. That slot was not filled after Data took the code enforcement position.
The supervisors said they will determine if all or any will become permanent township employees before the budget is passed.
Taking questions from the audience, Rishel explained the chip-seal paving program now underway.
Township resident John Manna said some residents asked why Savannah Road was chip-sealed since it was in good shape.
Rishel said this form of road conditioning is a necessity to extend the lifespan of the road.
The township budgets $300,000 per year to maintain its 72 miles of roads, he said adding that the best maintenance program involves chip-sealing each road every five years then resurfacing it in the 20th year.
The supervisors also noted that residents are receiving letters notifying them to connect to the sewers. He said the first 150 of Savannah, Gardner Center and Gardner Stop roads received letters. Another 200 letters are expected to go out next week and the final batch to go out at the end of the month. Residents are reminded they have no option in this. The township years ago passed legislation requiring residents to connect to sewers within 90 days of receiving letters.
Rishel said some slack can be given because a lot of people will be calling upon a limited number of contractors to do the hookups and weather might become a factor. But he urged people not to put it off.
Barbara Thompson asked if the supervisors could donate a former ballfield at Nearwood Drive to the school district where it might get use. Rishel said the backstop was removed two years ago at the direction of the insurance company but if the school district made a request it would be considered.
Bill Cheslock praised the supervisors for developing Shenango Park which, he said, is getting more use this year.
Joe Monsour said he was notified to remove the sign from his former Butler Road restaurant. He said he believes the sign could be a selling point since zoning changes would not allow a new sign to be as large. Monsour said his restaurant, The East Wind, burned down nine years ago.
Data said he understands that it could be a selling point, but said the zoning ordinance requires signs to be taken down within 30 days of a business being vacated. He added that within the past 30 days he sent out more than 50 letters to residents requiring them to meet zoning regulations.
In other business the supervisors:
•Accepted a $100 bid from Daniel Gordon for Lawrence County Repository property at 194 Kozal Road.
•Announced the Community Development Block Grant hearing will be at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 21.
•Said the Christmas Tree lighting will be Nov. 16 from 4 to 7:30 p.m.