Communities across the nation have been struck by financial hardships caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and the City of Latrobe is no different — but thankfully, there’s a silver lining, as the city is set to receive a total of more than $800,000 in federal relief funding.
The city’s 2021 budget includes an allocation of $409,000 in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, and a similar amount is expected for the second portion of the total relief funding slated for Latrobe.
Latrobe City Council took steps toward utilizing that funding at its regular meeting Tuesday night, moving forward on several projects related to infrastructure and computer and equipment upgrades.
Council authorized consulting engineer Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. to prepare a hot mix paving project proposal using the federal relief funding.
Latrobe City Manager Mike Gray said there are no specifics yet regarding which streets or areas of the city may be targeted for the paving work.
Meanwhile, council likewise gave Gray authority to seek bids for upgrades to the downtown surveillance camera system, as well as proposals for virtual meeting software and cybersecurity upgrades and equipment. City officials previously listed those items as things that could be paid for using money from the federal relief funds.
Wajdic said the proposed surveillance camera upgrades likely would target James H. Rogers Memorial Park — which is located near the Latrobe Municipal Building (Latrobe City Hall) and features a fountain and other amenities — and some nearby intersections.
“It’s going to be based on price, what they can do,” Wajdic said.
Virtual meeting software would enable both council members and — more importantly, according to councilman Ralph Jenko — the public to participate in local government meetings remotely.
Gray said the city is considering restrictions regarding virtual attendance for council members, to ensure that they don’t take the convenience for granted and stop attending meetings in person. He noted that virtual attendance could not count toward forming a quorum for the purpose of voting on official business.
Council also voted to award a contract to low bidder McMahan Construction LLC for the replacement of a sidewalk located at a city parking lot adjacent to Adams Memorial Library, Lot J.
Gray previously explained that the bricks in the sidewalk are prone to shifting during the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle, creating a hazard for pedestrians.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Latrobe Deputy Mayor Eric Bartels.
Latrobe Public Works Director Scott Wajdic said he didn’t have the total contract price on hand Tuesday night and would provide it later.
In other business:
• Karen Meholic was appointed as the city’s new director of finance and administration and city secretary. She has been serving as acting city secretary since the departure of Roxanne Shadron, who previously held the position.
• In an email read by Gray, Latrobe Police Chief John Sleasman reported that the Latrobe Police Department applied for a no-match, $49,000 Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant that would be used to upgrade police computers, to purchase patrol car computers and radios, to upgrade the voice analysis computer, to purchase forensic software for data extraction for mobile and cellular devices, and to add two Visual Alert police record software licenses.
• Sleasman also noted that the body-worn cameras recently acquired for city officers have been in service for a few months now and have “proved to be a great asset,” enabling officers to review footage to prepare more detailed reports and assisting supervisors with performing officer evaluations or reviews of critical incidents.
• Gray reported that the rehabilitation project for several of the underpasses beneath the Norfolk Southern railway that passes through Latrobe will begin “relatively soon.”
• Council amended the city ordinance concerning street excavations, in order to prohibit underground directional boring and drilling in the downtown business district.
• A code variance was approved regarding the requirements for the trimming of trees overhanging streets, alleys and sidewalks, for a property located at 629 Walnut St.
• The city is interviewing candidates to fill two positions at the city transfer station which will be opening up soon, and Wajdic said his department also likely will have to replace a mechanic who likely will be retiring in another year or so.
• Wajdic said a troublesome turning light on Depot Street is being addressed later this week, and the elevator in the parking garage should be up and running sometime today (Wednesday). He also noted that the public works department is busy painting lines, doing some tar sealing and repairing potholes.
• The city’s initial order for road salt for the winter has been submitted, according to Wajdic.
• Jenko said the new welcome sign being installed between the Lloyd Avenue Bridge and the Latrobe Post Office is set to be finished soon, “hopefully by the end of the month.”
• Jenko also reported that a solar-powered light has been installed on the Lincoln Avenue Trail near Weiss Furniture Co. on a trial basis, and the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program is seeking feedback on the fixture.
• Wolford said she feels the city should do something to recognize the continued accomplishments and hard work of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program (LCRP), after a city resident spoke during public comment to praise the organization.
• Gray noted that he has put together materials to help residents deal with skunk problems in the city, including tips on how to get them to move out of the area, which are available to the public at city hall. He urged residents who find skunk dens to notify the city.
• Latrobe Fire Chief John Brasile reminded residents that the city’s annual Halloween observance will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.
• Council held an executive session prior to its regular meeting to discuss matters regarding litigation.