By Josh Freeman
TARENTUM, PA. – On May 5, 2006, over 100 people from Tarentum’s community filled out a survey about the strengths and weaknesses of the town to help make the comprehensive plan more proficient.
Areas where Tarentum excels as a community are in its police and fire units. The street department also excels by keeping the town clean and providing labor and machinery to cut grass in abandoned lots, upkeep of the Riverview Park and Marina, and snow removal.
Challenges the town faces are very similar to other small towns in the area. Many vacant houses and businesses plague 7th Avenue in West Tarentum. Many of these problems with abandoned buildings and houses are caused by landowner neglect or bankruptcy of businesses. According to the Tarentum Borough website, people get the wrong idea about West Tarentum’s 7th Avenue, which at one time served as the town’s second major business district. Problems with criminal activity have risen as the number of abandoned properties has risen.
The plan also puts emphasis on creating new business for the town. Many residents feel the need for better parking, sidewalks, and landscaping needed for this process to occur. Requests for incentives for new business owners were also made (for example, financial assistance for people wishing to start a new store in the town). With the affordable cost of living Tarentum presents to new families, businesses have a better chance of being successful because of the convenience they would present.
Many of these proposed ideas are already underway. Ron Gillete’s Excavating and Paving has been contracted and has tore down many old vacant buildings that run along 7th Avenue.
“I think this is good for the community because with these run-down buildings being demolished there will be a smaller chance for criminal activity and hideouts,” stated Tarentum police officer, Evan Jankowski.
Brian Maskas, an employee of his family owned and operated store Maskas and Sons Candy and Wholesale agreed that the revitalization of the 7th Avenue business district would bring in newer businesses and help create a positive look for the West side of the town.
“The more space that is provided for expansion, the better the opportunity there is for a business to become successful in our community,” Maskas said.
According to the Borough’s website, businesses want more parking opportunities to make their customers feel less cramped and agitated. In addition to parking space, many believe that it is just as important to have a ‘green’ setting put into the mix around some of these buildings.
Debra Shiring, a lifelong Tarentum Resident and avid attendee of Tarentum Council Meetings also had opinions about the vacant houses and businesses that are scattered throughout the town.
“Many of these landlords here are irresponsible because they don’t do their research on the history of some of their renters,” Shiring said. “Many of these landlords are also absent and abandon their properties because of financial issues, code enforcement violations, and tax expenses.”
When many of these issues occur with irresponsible landlords, the Borough street department must take care of the lots.
“It’s hard work to take care of all of those lots, especially in the late spring and summer months,” said Tarentum Borough Street Department worker, Ted Bajak. “We get new lots to cut every year because of the problem with landlords and homeowners leaving their houses unexpectedly.”
The comprehensive plan noted that with this issue, more street department members are being side tracked. They are having to cut grass and take care of landscaping even when there are more important jobs at hand. Bajak noted that the temporary summer help Tarentum hires relieves much of the pressure of taking care of the lots and debris.
Juliet McCoy, a nurse at Alle-Kiski Medical Center and lifelong resident and active community member of Tarentum, believes that much of the progress of the plan will shape the town in many different ways.
“I think that this revitalization in all aspects of our community will help bring business and opportunity back to Tarentum again,” she said.
Since recreating the Comprehensive Plan and outlook for Tarentum many community members do think that the future looks bright. The input from community members to the plan emphasizes what needs to be done to keep Tarentum a positive place to live in and visit.