Blairsville County Council unanimously approved two grant applications for playground and community center renovations and a road widening project during a regular vote Tuesday.
Borough Manager Michael Baker worked with Indiana State Sen. Joe Pittman to apply for a $150,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development to widen Veterans Road in west Blairsville.
“We’ve already received one (grant) for this project in the amount of $100,000, and this is the second payment that Sen. Pittman has talked to us about,” Baker said. “It is a sum of $150,000 and the district will be the recipient of the grant. We will then give that money to Trek Development and Veterans Drive will be widened to accommodate their new construction. They’re adding 15 new duplexes there, so we’re going to have to add a street … and extend Veterans Drive.”
Baker will also apply for an 80/20 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by the Oct. 27 deadline to get money to renovate the community center and playground.
“We have a number of things we need to put (the DCNR grant money) toward,” Baker said. “The House of Culture needs a boiler replacement; it’s about $19,000, almost $20,000. In addition, the front door needs to be replaced. We have broken glass and several windows. We could refurbish the gym floor if we get the funding to do it, and then there’s equipment on the playground that’s in a state of disrepair and needs repair or replacement.”
Depending on how much grant money the district receives, Baker said, he will, if anything, have to work with the recreation department to prioritize the distribution of DCNR funding.
Also Tuesday, Blairsville Police Chief Louis Sacco said he was trying to secure funding for new police walkie-talkies and body armor for officers. According to Sack, the department’s current radios are outdated and no longer supported by the department’s technology.
“We are now working with Senator Pittman’s office … to replace our radios, which are in dire need,” Sacco said. “They don’t even make the radios we have anymore, and they won’t service them if one goes down, and you’re looking at probably about $5,000 (for) a portable radio.”
Sacco said other departments in the county are also scrambling for radio funding. The Blairsville Police Department plans to purchase 10 new portable radios and three mobile radios, with each portable radio costing more than $5,000 and the mobile radios costing even more than that, according to Sack.
“There’s (grant) money through the PCCD and so on that we’re looking at and I think we’ll be able to qualify for that,” Sacco said. “One is (a) 100 percent (grant) that will cover the cost of replacing the radio, and the other is 80/20, which is 80 percent coverage and 20 percent matching.”
The Blairsville Police Department is also looking to equip its officers with department-issued weapons, Sack said. Currently, Blairsville officers are required to carry their own weapons while on duty, something Sacco wants to change. “I worked to finance the weapons issued by the department,” Sacco said. “(Civilian asset forfeiture) is something we’re looking at right now with our service weapons.”
In other news, council members made a number of announcements Tuesday, including:
• The Blairsville Police Department has free COVID-19 test kits that residents can pick up at the department office. The department previously limited test kits to two per person, but after receiving the new shipment, residents can pick up as many as five free test kits.
“You can get test kits (while) supplies last,” Sacco said. “You don’t need to register, no questions asked. We just give them to you. … But if you’re sick, don’t come in. We don’t want to get sick either, but let someone who doesn’t have any symptoms come and get tested.”
• East and West Market streets will be closed and barricaded for the River Valley School District homecoming parade on Friday around 5 p.m.
• The county awarded a $13,743 contract to Harvey Paving and Excavating to construct a parking lot across the street from the community center.
• Blairsville received a second payment from the American Rescue Plan of $168,000, which will go mostly toward stormwater and sewer projects, according to Baker.
• The Seeker will be held from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday 30 October. Residents who want to participate should turn on their driveway lights to alert scammers.
• The Blairsville Fire Department responded to 238 calls this year: 14 fires, 75 rescues, 21 hazmat responses, 75 calls for service and 28 false alarms.