No tax increase in Peters in 2014

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Peters council members on Monday unanimously adopted an $18.63 million budget for next year with no increase in the property tax rate of 13 mills.

Revenues for next year are projected to be $16.4 million with the difference to be made up from a fund balance of $8.5 million. But because spending and revenues are conservatively estimated, it's likely that none of the fund balance will be needed to make up for the spending deficit, officials said.

Council also approved a capital improvement program for next year pegged at $3.8 million. Major projects anticipated for next year include $1.47 million for road paving and improvements, a comprehensive recreational plan and other projects.

Also approved Monday was the purchase of a fire rescue pumper truck for $449,963 from Toyne Inc. of Breda, Iowa. Township manager Michael Silvestri recommended that council reject the four bids received because three of the other bidders failed to include a required bid bond. Mr. Silvestri suggested giving the companies time to submit the bond and possibly bringing in more bidders. He also said he was uncomfortable because Peters fire Chief Dan Coyle is employed in sales for the fire apparatus company.

"We think we could get more bids and better consideration," Mr. Silvestri said.

But council members said they were concerned that bids could be higher, having already exceeded the $440,000 budgeted for the purchase. And they saw no conflict because Chief Coyle was not consulted about the bids.

Township solicitor John Smith gave council an update on an ongoing issue with a gate across Mount Blaine Drive.

Council asked Mr. Smith earlier this month to consult with a lawyer representing eight residents who in October installed a metal gate across their private, unpaved portion of the road, between Old Oak and Nevin Drive. The remainder of Mount Blaine was paved and taken over by the township in 2009.

Other residents on the street objected to the gate, which is kept unlocked, and township public safety officials said they were concerned about delays in emergency services if the gate remains up.

The group of eight residents said they installed the gate to cut down on speeding traffic and to prevent motorists from using their road as a cut-through to Route 19 and West McMurray Road. They don't believe the gate prohibits their neighbors from using the road.

Mr. Smith said he contacted the lawyer working with the group last week and asked him to remove the gate while the two sides negotiate a settlement. The gate has remained up, he said.

"That gate should be open," said Councilman James Berquist, one of several council members who has expressed frustration at the slow pace of action.

"We're trying to resolve the problem, but to this point, they have made no steps to do that," Councilman David Ball said.

Council members voted 6-1 to give the homeowners until Friday to remove the gate. If it is still standing by Monday, Mr. Smith is to file a lawsuit in Washington County Common Pleas Court. Councilman Gary Steigel Jr. dissented.

Council also decided to begin seeking design ideas for telephone pole banners promoting the township. Council would like to place the banners near the intersection of East McMurray and Valleybrook roads. They would cost about $155 each, Mr. Silvestri said.

He hopes to obtain resident sponsors to help pay for the cost. Commercial enterprises or companies wouldn't be able to sponsor the banners because First Energy, the owner of the poles, has prohibited it, Mr. Silvestri said.

"The idea is to have something festive that looks nice," Mr. Berquist said. "I don't think we need them year-round."

The banners would be displayed between Thanksgiving and the new year, and banners with a patriotic theme would be hung from Memorial Day through the Fourth of July.

Janice Crompton: or 412-263-1159.

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