League of municipalities honors Banner Communities

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Good communications with residents was one of the keys to Collier's selection as a Banner Community, township manager Sal Sirabella said.

Collier was one of 21 communities selected for the first-ever honors by the Allegheny League of Municipalities.

"County Executive Rich Fitzgerald issued a challenge to municipalities to meet five criteria, and our commissioners felt we could accomplish all of those," Mr. Sirabella said this week.

Mr. Fitzgerald and the league cited the Banner Communities last week for their efforts to "implement best practices in all aspects of their operations and [to] govern in an inclusive, collaborative manner."

They drew praise from league chairman Pete Poninsky for their intergovernmental cooperation efforts, community activities and educational programs.

The league has members from every Allegheny County community as well as some municipalities in neighboring counties.

"Some communities don't see value in having their officials learn what is going on in other municipalities," Whitehall Councilwoman Kathy DePuy said. "We are fortunate here that council members and residents support those efforts."

She and many of her colleagues serve on county, regional and state authorities and organizations. "That allows us to get a regional view of problems rather than stopping at municipal boundaries," she said. "That helped us capture a Banner Community award."

The league has worked for 40 years with local governments and authorities. The Banner program seeks to improve communication, cooperation and coordination on regional issues. The 21 Banner Communities have set the standard for how local government should work, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

"They are a diverse group of municipalities in size and demographics, but they all exhibit the characteristics of leadership and sound local government principals," Richard Hadley, league executive director, said.

Mr. Sirabella said Collier officials focused on communications. Those efforts ranged from improving street signage to resuming production of a newsletter. Collier also posts agendas and minutes for meetings of all municipal agencies on the township website.

More improvements are ahead, he said. On April 29 Collier will launch an improved website. It will feature "eTrak-plus" software that will allow residents to reserve and pay online rental fees for athletic fields, courts and picnic pavilions.

Cranberry manager Jerry Andree said elected officials in his Banner Community work hard to maintain good communications with residents. "We're excited that the league has recognized what we all should be striving for," he said. "This is an exciting opportunity to promote good practices," he said.

Butler Township manager Ed Kirkwood said commissioners were pleased to be honored by the league. "We strive to operate in a businesslike manner, and develop and deliver the best services possible," he said.

Banner designation confirms what township officials suspected. Very few residents phone the township office or attend commissioners meetings to air complaints. "That tells me the public recognizes we are doing a good job, or they would be calling me or beating down the doors to voice their concerns," Mr. Kirkland said.

"We want to make sure that our officials keep learning," Wilkins commissioners Chairwoman Sylvia Martinelli said. "So we participate in a lot of local government classes and seminars. We were thrilled that we were selected."

Since the list of Banner Communities was released, municipal officials in neighboring towns have been asking for advice on how they can qualify for next year's awards, Ms. Martinelli said.

The Allegheny League of Municipalities was founded in 1963. It was part of an effort encouraged by Allegheny County commissioners to assist and educate local government officials about regional approaches to problems.

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Len Barcousky: lbarcousky@post-gazette.com or 724-772-0184.


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