TCA firm may return to work in Lisbon

LISBON — The consulting firm guiding the village’s fledgling downtown revitalization efforts for the past two years may come back to provide more assistance.

Mayor Roger Gallo met earlier this week with Lisbon Area Chamber of Commerce President Susan Shank about continuing to contract with Town Center Associates (TCA), the downtown revitalization consulting firm hired in 2017 and 2018 for $12,500 each year, with the village and chamber splitting the costs. TCA’s Mark Peluso met with Gallo and Shank to discuss whether they were interested in continuing to contract with the firm over the next three years but at a reduced annual cost of $7,500.

The topic came up at Tuesday’s Village Council meeting, with officials saying TCA’s role would be reduced and would mostly include maintaining the interactive public website that shows what downtown buildings are available and who owns them and keeping track of building code violations.

TCA would also assist in updating the village zoning code to include the new property-owner requirements enacted by council as part of the revitalization efforts. To update the zoning code, TCA has recommended the village contract with Environmental Planning & Design of Pittsburgh. TCA has worked with EP&D in the past, and it would cost $4,695 to hire the firm, which village Fiscal Officer Tracey Wonner said is considerably cheaper than the $20,000 commonly charged by other firms.

Wonner warned council in December there might not be enough in the 2019 village budget to continue contracting with the consulting firm and also rewrite the zoning code.

Gallo recommended council take action, but Councilman Peter Wilson suggested they hold off until the next meeting so the proposed contracts can be reviewed by the zoning board and Zach Barkley, the village’s part-time zoning inspector.

Shank said the chamber is willing to consider continuing its partnership with the village, but they are concerned by how long it took to enact the new building requirements.

“We absolutely want to make sure this is something we want to do as a group,” she told council.

Gallo encouraged the chamber to join with them again, saying that continuing to retain TCA’s services was vital to the success of the revitalization plan. A key component of that plan has been a new law requiring property owners with vacant buildings in the downtown business district make some effort to lease or sell the building, or face being fined.

Councilman Wilson asked about the status of the latest warning letters that were supposed to be sent to property owners with vacant buildings, and Wonner, who also serves as council clerk, said she thought Barkley was waiting until he received the go-ahead from council. Wilson pointed out the Dec. 18 council meeting minutes they had just approved stated council authorized the warning letters be mailed out.

“I guess we’ll have to get with Zach and figure that out,” Wonner said.

Village Solicitor Alec Beech said he needs to get with Barkley to also discuss the process for issuing citations under the vacant building law.