December 1, 2009 |

Hilltop getting needed attention

The proposed tuition tax on higher education, the Warrington Recreation Center, and building inspection were some of the topics discussed at the Nov. 19 meeting of the Allentown Community Development Corp.

Attendees included city Councilman Bruce Kraus; District Justice Richard King; Father Vince Cianca of St. Maria Magdalena Church; and Allentown CDC board members Helen Baney, Amy Averbeck, and Rich Masilon.

Mr. Kraus said one of the "hot button" issues at the Nov. 16 Hilltop Alliance Action Forum, which drew about 100 attendees, was the Warrington Recreation Center becoming a premier recreation area once a spray park is built — as is planned — over its closed swimming pool.

The premier facility would become a draw for the entire Hilltop, he said.

Another topic was reuse — for recreational purposes — of the former Knoxville school, which is large and expensive to maintain. The role of the city and schools needs to be explored, said Rev. Cianca.

In other news, Mr. Kraus said it looks as if there is funding for clean-ups. "The Hilltop is finally getting the attention up here that's been needed for so long," he said.

Mrs. Baney said because the area is considered a corridor between Mount Washington and the Slopes, the Mount Washington Community Development Corp. is going to work with the ACDC.

"That we are considered a corridor is to our advantage," said Mr. Masilon.

Mr. Kraus said there has been discussion about cleaning up the graffiti behind the Daily Mart on Brosville St.

Mr. Masilon said the storage site behind it is bad also. But the worst thing is the trash. He could clean it up at noon and by 1 p.m. it would be back again.

Mrs. Baney said there is talk of erecting a mural at the site.

Mr. Kraus said he and the new Acting Public Works Director, Robert Kaczorowski, are doing ride-throughs of neighborhoods and getting some long-standing projects resolved.

At one area site, he showed Mr. Kaczorowski deteriorating steps, and the next day new steps were put up.

He asked the Allentown CDC board members to give him a list of five projects in need of attention, and he would do a drive-through with Mr. Kaczorowski and get them taken off the list.

Mr. Kraus advised not rushing into new lighting as the city is working on a pilot lighting project.

Mrs. Baney asked why it takes 90 days to get an official to come out and inform a resident that they cannot put garbage outside for pick-up five days early. The citation process takes time, said Mr. Kraus.

Mr. King said a resident can be cited by the Public Works and refuse departments for such infractions.

Mr. Masilon said three porches are still down that fell a couple of years ago behind his house along Brosville St.

Mr. King said such incidents must be cited. The problem is there are not enough employees in the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI).

Mr. Kraus suggested writing letters to the Mayor's Office and Public Safety Director Michael Huss asking why building inspectors are not yet at Zone 3 as promised. The purpose was to allow for face-to-face contact in relaying problems.

Turnover in BBI, and the absence of an acting director, are concerns, he said.

Mr. Kraus and Mr. King theorized that insuffient pay, testing requirements, and having to enter high crime areas with no protection are at the root of the turnover.

Mr. Kraus said budget time in the city offers an opportunity to look at building inspectors and neighborhood needs. Reinstituting the neighborhood needs program is an option.

Regarding the budget, which must be passed by Dec. 31, the proposed tuition tax is seen by some as a way to help fill financial holes.

The one percent tuition tax on higher education would generate $16.2 million. It would be factored into a student's tuition.

Mr. Kraus said he has not yet taken a position on the tax; but, comments he has received from residents on the issue are that the tax is not broad enough and does not "spread evenly among the non-profits."

Over 40 percent of city land cannot presently be taxed, he said.

A public hearing on the matter was scheduled in city chambers the next day.

To a comment about cameras going up, as shown on the evening news, Mr. Kraus said the city received a Homeland Security grant for cameras to monitor the waterways and the Golden Triangle.

In Allentown CDC news, the organization will be sponsoring at Christmas party at the Caliguiri Plaza on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.

The next meeting will be in February. Mr. Kraus said it would be nice to invite the newly elected city council member, Natalia Rudiak, of District 4, to express concerns and get to know her.

In the meantime, he will be sharing public safety concerns with Ms. Rudiak.

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