City commits to fire department renovation - Titusville Herald: News

City commits to fire department renovation

By Sean P. Ray Herald Staff Writer | Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2019 5:00 am

Titusville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to recommit Community Development Block Grant money obtained in 2018 to the renovation of the Titusville Fire Department, rather than the original plan of replacing the South Perry Street Bridge with a walkway.

According to City Manager Larry Manross, the city will have access of up to $146,000 to install a new, taller roof at the fire station. This will allow the firefighters to park the tower ladder truck that Lower Macungie Township donated to the city in May inside the department’s garages. The truck is too tall to fit inside the preexisting garage.

Plans for the project are currently being drawn up by Stiffler McGraw, the city’s contracted architectural service. As such, Manross is unsure of how much the price tag will come to for the renovation, though he anticipates the grant funding will cover the entire cost.

The money was initially intended to pay for a pedestrian bridge to replace the South Perry Street Bridge after its demolition. However, the tearing down of the bridge is taking longer than the city initially thought. As CDBG funds have a three-year time limit, the city had to recommit the money to an alternate project.

The tower ladder truck is taller than the entrance to the fire department’s garages by 1-foot, 6-inches. The renovation will raise the entrance above that mount, and also give the building a pointed, “cathedral” style roof rather than the flat one it currently has, according to Manross.

The city hopes to have construction completed by winter.

No comment from mayor

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Titusville resident James “Jim” Elliott asked Mayor Esther Smith a series of questions, the majority of which the mayor did not answer.

Elliott began his inquiry by asking the mayor who was paying for a pair of ads and a series of flyers that respond to criticisms made by three candidates for Titusville City Council. However, Smith responded by saying “No comment.”

Elliott followed by asking whether Smith was planning to run for reelection, despite previously indicating she wouldn’t Smith initially said “No comment” again, but appeared to quickly change her mind and gave an answer.

“No, I’m not,” Smith said. “But no comment on any of this.”

Smith did not respond to Elliott’s next question, where he asked whether she would stick to her plan not to run and avoid performing a write-in campaign at the last moment. Elliott then asked whether Smith was “still backing Jayla Pertz for City Council,” making referencing that Pertz appeared in court earlier in the day to waive driving under the influence charges.

“This is ridiculous, come on now,” Smith said in response.

Elliott continued asking questions, none of which the mayor answered. She eventually began laughing at the inquries.

“This is hilarious,” Smith said laughing, before asking if there were any other questions.

Smith called Elliott’s questions “foolish” when speaking to The Herald after the meeting. She further claimed that the ads and flyers were paid for with personal contributions from “private individuals.”

Herald Publisher Michael Sample said that, as a private business, The Herald does not divulge who pays for ads, though clarified that they were not paid for by the city. He said the half page color ads were paid for at the standard rates, which would have amounted to around $600 per ad.

$1.5 million grant

The city gave the go ahead for the Titusville Redevelopment Authority to apply for a $1.5 million grant to improve access to the Opportunity Park for industrial vehicles.

The grant funds would come through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and would widen the drive way and entrance of the Opportunity Park to allow for larger vehicles to enter. Other aspects of the project would include improved drainage in and around the Opportunity Park, which Manross believes will have a positive impact on several surrounding properties, including the Carter Field parking lot.

Should TRA be approved for the grant, the agency predicts it will result in the creation of 25 temporary construction jobs, as well as 12 full-time permanent positions and the retention of 45 pre-existing employees working at the park.

The grant requires a $25,000 match from the city, though that amount can be paid through services. As such, the city’s Public Works department will contribute labor to the project in order to meet the match.

Manross noted that TRA had applied to this grant before but did not receive it at the previous Council meeting. He said he expects the grant funds will likely not be available until next year if TRA is approved.

Home arson

Titusville resident Lou Gianatiempo raised concerns to council regarding a Bank Street home that was damaged in an alleged arson in April. According to Gianatiempo, several people have been spotted on the property and reportedly living in a shed located behind the home, despite the property being in violation of several city ordinances following the fire.

He asked that council take punitive measures against the homeowner, who is accused of the arson, in response. Manross said there is a preliminary hearing regarding the case at the end of the month, and that the city would have to wait for judicial proceedings to complete before taking action.

“I agree with everything you’re saying, but there is a process,” he said.

Titusville Police Chief Dustin LeGoullon, who was in attendance at the meeting, said that local officers had responded to numerous incidents around the house, which is located at 320 Bank Street, including a report of someone living in the shed. However, he said in many cases, there were not any arrestable offenses occurring.

Other meeting news

Council approved a zoning variance to reclassify the zoning for the Joe M. Ball Residence Hall and Murdoch Townhouses, which are three buildings the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville is donating to the city. The buildings will not be classified as being in a multi-family residential district, also known as an R-3 zone, rather than a special conservation district zone, known as an S-1 zone. The city performed the rezoning as they plan to sell the homes to a private developer at some point in the future for apartment spacing, which the S-1 zone does not allow for. The matter will now be turned over to the Titusville Planning Commission, which will meet Thursday, at 6 p.m., at City Hall.

Council approved a bill on its second reading to raise the penalty fees for three ordinances. The fees, which were previously set in the 1960s, were seen as too small to be effective. The affected ordinances are 904.99, 1111.99 and 1905.99, which affect snow removal, yard weeds and unsafe structures.

The next meeting of Titusville City Council will take place on Aug. 20, at 6 p.m., at the Towne Square Building.

Ray can be reached, by email, at