Venango planning commission hears home rehab update

Venango County Regional Planning Commission members heard an update on the county’s home rehabilitation program, among other matters, during the panel’s monthly meeting this week.

Josh Sterling, the planning commission’s community development planner, gave an overview of what the home rehab program has accomplished since 2021.

The program makes use of several state grant funding sources to fix owner occupied homes for people who meet the income requirements.

“It raises the value of the properties and gives hope to the occupants,” planning commission board member and Oil City mayor Bill Moon said of the program.

“The projects he’s doing are tremendous for the county. It blows your mind what a difference a new roof and siding can make,” Moon added.

So far, 16 homes have been rehabilitated in Oil City, Emlenton, Franklin, Reno and Seneca, and 10 projects across the county are in progress.

At this point, the county has an applicant pool of 68 potential projects.

Sterling said the county spent the last $400,000 grant in four months and has changed its request for the next grant to $1 million, which is the maximum amount allowed.

The average cost of a home rehab project is $61,215, Sterling said. He added that if the county gets the $1 million grant it can do about 15 projects.

Currently, Sterling said he is getting about 15 applications for home rehab every month.

The main bottleneck in the program is finding contractors to do the work, Sterling said. He added that he has three or four contractors who will do the work and he keeps them busy.

In other business at this week’s meeting, planning commission executive director Hilary Buchanan said the county gave out about $250,000 in liquid fuels money to municipalities for various projects.

Venango County received 17 liquid fuels applications totaling $525,700 and allocated $250,000 of 2023 funds for the county liquid fuels grant program, she said.

Municipalities that were awarded fiscal year 2023 funds are Barkeyville Borough and Pinegrove Township, $35,000; Clinton Township and Cooperstown Borough, $30,000; Cranberry Township and Rouseville Borough, $25,000; Oil Creek Township, $15,000; Cherrytree Township, Cornplanter Township, Irwin Township, Oil City and Sandycreek Township; $10,000; and Rockland Township, $5,000.

On another topic, the planning commission gave conditional approval to Frenchcreek Township’s proposal to tear down its wastewater treatment plant in Polk Borough and build a new one on the same site.

The township requested several waivers, and after consideration the planning commission approved its request for a waiver of financial security for the project and a waiver of an operations and maintenance agreement.

The commission also gave conditional approval to the Cranberry McDonald’s to put in a second drive through lane.

McDonald’s doesn’t plan to begin the project until the spring of 2023 and doesn’t plan to change the parking layout at all, county land use planner Jenna Dillon said.

In another matter, Alex Shreffler, the county GIS analyst, completed a floodplain analysis of Venango County to see how many structures in the county are in a floodplain and what percent of the land in the county falls in a floodplain.

The data was broken down by municipality, and Utica and Polk boroughs have the highest percentage of structures in a floodplain in the county.

In other notes, Buchanan said the county is thinking of opening up another round of infrastructure bank funding in January with funds awarded in September.

And the commission is working on a county solar ordinance and is reviewing its draft, Buchanan said. She added that the review will be presented to the commission board when it is finished.

Buchanan said the commission is in the process of hiring a second person to work at the recycling center with Erik Johnson, the county’s recycling coordinator and deputy planning commission director.

And in January the commission will be looking for some new members and new officers, Buchanan said.

Nick Melnick has served for 10 years on the commission and isn’t eligible for another term. The terms of board members Sue Smith, Ben Porter and Anita Fuchs will end in January, but they are all eligible for another term, Shreffler said.


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