Allegheny-Clarion River Valley RegionBlueprint Communities InitiativeCommunity Forum

Hannah Switzer

Held - Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at ACV Elementary School

Hannah Switzer wins banner contest.

Welcome - Marilyn McCall

On behalf of the entire Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region Blueprint Communities Core Team, I’d like to welcome you to tonight’s Community Forum. At previous forums, we have explained the Blueprint Communities Initiative and what it can do for our Region. We’ve talked in great detail about our 5-Year Strategic Plan and received an overwhelming amount of community input as we prepared the Plan. It is through your ongoing participation that we are able to accomplish everything that we set out to do.

We have told you from the beginning that the Blueprint Communities Initiative will not bring about instant changes in the Region. This will be a long process, encompassing five to ten years. From the outside looking in, it may seem that we have not accomplished much. As I’m sure you are aware, the 2015-2016 State budget still has not been passed and signed by the Governor. This has hampered our efforts moving forward in applying for grants. But, as you will hear tonight, we still have made a lot of progress in some areas, a little progress in other areas, and not so much progress in others. But I assure you that we ARE moving forward through the Strategic Plan. And we will continue to move forward in the coming months and years.

We will have a Question and Answer period at the end of tonight’s presentation.

Remarks by School Superintendent - David McDeavitt.

Mr. McDeavitt was glad to see the initiative being able to use the school and to keep the students involved with their efforts today with the banner art contest. McDeavitt expressed his hope that through the Blueprint Communities efforts, an increase in student population is quite possible.

Oil Region Alliance - Remarks Deb Lutz.

Ms. Lutz presented the newest edition of the Oil Region Alliance’s visitor’s guide, and copies were available for everyone in attendance. She also noted that the ORA would also act as the applicant on the ACVRV Blueprint Communities behalf for future projects as they have in the past.

Accomplishments - John Soroka

We have completed our first year in the Blueprint Communities Initiative. We have accomplished the first steps toward implementing our Strategic Plan. Tonight we will provide a quick summation of our accomplishments.

Joint Municipal Agreement - A Joint Municipal Agreement has been signed by Emlenton, Foxburg, and Parker. The Councils of the 3 communities, Foxburg, Parker and Emlenton, created and recognized the Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region Blueprint Communities and the Blueprint Core Team Board for the purpose of a multi-municipal economic development and revitalization plan. The Agreement calls for three representatives from each municipality. Members of the Core Team report back to each of the Councils at every Council meeting.

By-Laws - John Soroka

In January 2016, we passed By-Laws for the ACRVR Blueprint Communities Initiative added a 3rd representative from each community to the Core Team and elected officers.

Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region Blueprint Communities Initiative Core Team - Sara Stewart


Marilyn McCall, Chair

Deb Lutz, Vice Chair

Allison Hilinski, Secretary

Nancy Marano, Treasurer


Parker -

Marilyn McCall, Councilperson

Bill McCall, Mayor

Sara Stewart, Community

Foxburg -

Chuck Gisselbrecht, Mayor

Jolm Soroka, Community


Emlenton -

Nancy Marano, Borough Manager

Amy Whitehill, Councilperson

Allison Hilinski, Community

Advisors -

Deb Lutz, Oil Region Alliance

Kim Harris, Oil Region Alliance

Carmen Johnson, Armstrong Co. Planning Office

Cindy Elder, Farmers National Bank

Since we are not a legal organization and therefore cannot open a bank account, the Borough of Emlenton has provided a depository earmarked for Blueprint Communities. All funds raised for the Blueprint Communities Initiative will be deposited into that account. A monthly report will be given at each Core Team meeting.

Goal #1 — Trails/Recreation Sara Stewart

Review/update regional plans, incorporating county and regional plans that reference the community or its resources — The Foxburg plan has been updated and made more regional. Parker updated its Capital Improvement Plan, a part of the Comprehensive Plan, which prioritizes needed short-term, mid-term, and long-term improvements to the City. Parker has provided an addendum to the Allegheny-Clarion

River Valley Blueprint Communities Recreational Tourism Study done for Foxburg. Emlenton’s is written and we are working on gathering photos of key buildings in Emlenton to add to the Study.

Define and implement signage for trail routes through Emlenton and Foxburg — Emlenton secured funding to implement through the Northwest Planning Commission Grant. Signage for the trail route and a kiosk has been installed. Foxburg funding has been secured and is to be completed by December 2016.

Identify Sites for Additional Water Access Areas and Obtain Right of Way/Easements — Property identified in Emlenton and Foxburg. Initial conversations with property owners have been held. Plans are for a boat ramp and parking area at both locations.

Parker to Obtain Trail Town Status for the North Country National Scenic Trail — Completed March 16, 2015. The North Country Trail runs nearly the entire length of Route 268 within the City Limits, entering the City on S. Jackson Avenue, exiting the City across the Veterans Memorial Bridge, and continuing along the Allegheny River Trail toward Foxburg. Signage for the North Country Trail has been provided by the North Country Trail Association and installed by the City throughout the length of the trail. Signs are located at the City’s north entrance and the entrance on S. Jackson Avenue. Blue trail markers are located on utility poles along the trail route.

On March 20th, the Chapter’s monthly hike will begin at 1:00 p.m. at Parker. You are invited to join the group for breakfast at the Parker VFW at 11:30 a.m. The hike begins at 1:00 p.m. at the State Game Lands parking lot on Route 268, about one mile west of Parker where the trail crosses Route 268. There is a North Country Trail Post in the parking lot that is visible from the road. Brochures from the Butler Chapter of the North Country Trail Association are available on the table as you exit.

Work continues on the development of the Erie to Pittsburgh trail. The Allegheny-Valley Trail Association is the lead on this. There continues to be some conversations with private property owners.

Goal #1’s first meeting was held in February with only one person in attendance. We are working to re-energize the group. We invite everyone to attend the next meeting to be held March. TBA.

Goal #2 — Business/Entrepreneurial Opportunities Nancy Marano – Given by John Soroka in Nancy’s absence.

Conduct an inventory of what businesses currently exist in the Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region — Completed. New businesses are opening in Emlenton: the hair salon in the Crawford Center has a new owner, and another is just opened on Main Street. The Chicken Coop  - Studio 306 is in the process of organizing a group of residents in the Region who will provide workshops, classes, and events to promote creativity, critical thinking, education and other outlets to better enhance the communities. Two new businesses will open in Parker this fall.

Develop Facebook page — Completed. It is named “Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region.”

Develop Website for the A-C River Valley Region —Dave Staab of The Progress News donated a Website hosting. The website is being developed and will be completed soon. It will be named: “Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region.” The site address is:

The new Oil Region Alliance’s Visitor’s Guide is also available.

Goal #3 — Community Development - Nancy Marano – given by Marilyn McCall in Nancy’s absence.

Goal #3 Continued: Marilyn McCall:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — “Cool and Connected” pilot program - We submitted a Letter of Interest. If approved for the program, it would provide experts to help community members develop strategies and an Action Plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development.

Improve facades in business districts — We completed a draft for the Business District Façade Improvement Program. We received proposals from 2 companies: One for the planning study and one for the development of the business district plan.

Establish an incentive program to encourage property owners to make repairs to properties to bring to UCC Codes — The City of Parker passed the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act which gives property owners who make improvements to their properties tax incentives for 10 years. Emlenton had LERTA, but it has expired. Council is to vote to reinstate the program.

Explore and implement homeowners programs — We are exploring homeowners programs with officials from the 3 counties at this time. Programs are available for first-time home owners, low income home owners, veterans, elderly, etc. Once we know what programs are available and obtain any necessary funding, we will be holding public meetings in each of the 3 municipalities to educate attendees on programs available.

Secure funding to develop improvements to the Emlenton Hughes Park; Explore a recreation center in Parker - We have applied for funding for Hughes Park, but have not yet been successful. We will continue to apply once grant monies become available.

Emlenton has applied for a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Pilot program. A meeting is scheduled for tomorrow for a $100,000 grant that covers site planning, 3 years of planning, and development.

Two properties were being considered in Parker but we were not able to acquire the properties. We are exploring alternate sites and options.

Develop a program for student municipal liaisons to involve students and school in local government activities and municipalities in school happenings - Emlenton has appointed 2 students to serve on Council. Parker has appointed 1 student and is working on another. Foxburg has identified a student for its Council.

Remarks: Chuck Gisselbrecht

Municipal Elected Officials develop program or implement existing program to remove blighted properties — We were waiting for the PA Department of Economic Development to Define blight. Since they have not completed that, we are now working to draft a Blight Ordinance for the 3 communities.

The Venango County Land Bank and CDBG money from the Planning Commission have been allotted $57,400 to be used on designated blight in Emlenton. They have guaranteed three properties for removal.

Goal #4 — Arts & Culture John Soroka

There has been an increase in the number of cultural activities Region-wide. Residents put on the Legacy Play in Emlenton at the Crawford Center. The Chicken Coop is now organizing. Once organized, it will be a future forum for arts. Showboat is also returning to the Crawford Center. A subcommittee is working on infrastructure improvements to the Crawford Center. They have solicited bids for sound and lighting. Grants are being written for those funds.

Goal #5 — Marilyn McCall

Our Region was offered a mini-grant of $5,000 to be used for a project that would unite the three communities as a Region and present a cohesive message. We received community input at earlier forums that suggested banners or signage. We were awarded the grant to purchase 58 banners that are identical for all communities.

Unite the 3 Blueprint Communities and present a cohesive message.

Banner Contest - We wanted to include our Region’s youth by having art students design the banners. So we asked Superintendent, Mr. McDeavitt, to help us make that happen. With the assistance of art teacher Anita Allan the art students of ACV HS submitted entries to our contest. The winner was Hannah Switzer, a senior at ACV, and a resident of West Freedom, near Parker, PA.

PA Downtown Center Remarks - Survey - Carmen Johnson

The Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region Blueprint Communities intends to apply for funding to revitalize its 3 member communities and the Region as a whole. When applying for grants, most grant sources require a local match. Some grants permit the use of volunteer and/or in-kind labor – labor undertaken by community members that can be considered the equivalent of a cash match. Others require actual dollars. The Blueprint Communities do not have a steady source of income and, as a result, in the near future, we will begin holding special events and fundraisers. We are now passing out a survey with questions pertaining to fundraising and your interest in assisting with these fundraising efforts. We would appreciate any feedback that you can give us. It is important to remember that fundraising starts with local communities and benefits area residents, businesses, and consumers. We are a small group and need your help to revitalize and redevelop your community that, in turn, will increase economic development and thereby increase the quality of life for everyone in the region and beyond.

The survey is quite simple asking for your ideas on fundraising activities and for your willingness to assist in those efforts. Thank you.

Closing Remarks Marilyn McCall

The Core Team will soon embark on developing our 2“d Year Action Plan. Please watch the Blueprint Communities column in The Progress News for updates throughout the year.

Please remember to drop your surveys in the basket near the door as you leave.

We thank all of you for coming out tonight. We wish you safe travels home.


Allegheny-Clarion River Valley Region

Blueprint Communities Initiative


March 15, 2016

For all grants, the ACRVR is required to provide a local match.

Please list and describe fundraising ideas for the ACRVR.

If you would be willing to assist with projects and events, please tell us in what types of projects and events you are interested in participating.


Name: ____________________________________________________


Phone Number: (Home)_____________________ (Cell) ____________________


We value your input and thank you for your contributions to the Blueprint Communities Initiative.


ACRVR Core Team


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