Progressive Lancaster Takes Permit Parking Into The 21st Century

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Lancaster PA is a fairly progressive community that is embracing a modern technology to make permit parking easier for everyone.

Lancaster has 19 residential parking areas throughout the city.  Administration of the program is taking a giant leap forward that will make life better for everyone involved and save money.  Instead of issuing yearly parking stickers, the city will start issuing permanent parking stickers that will only need replaced if you sell your vehicle.  Most people keep a vehicle for at least four years so think of the savings right there!  There were nearly 2,500 stickers being issued every year.

The new stickers will be affixed to the right side of the vehicle’s rear window.  They will be round, orange and have a barcode.  The barcode will contain all the information parking enforcement needs to know about you and your vehicle.  This information will be available using the same technology as having your groceries scanned at the local supermarket.  Hand-held units will read the easy to find barcode and make enforcement a snap.

About 90 percent of all permit parking permit renewals have already been paid for 2011.  The low $20 fee pays for the administration of the program.  The fee has remained at $20 since 2003.

Spanish American Civic Association Helping Redevelop And Stabilize Lancaster’s SE Quadrant Neighborhood

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Lancaster’s Spanish American Civic Association (SACA) was formed in 1984 to focus on the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant and blighted homes in Lancaster’s southeast quadrant neighborhood.  This neighborhood is 63 percent rental properties.  Lancaster City is 33.2 percent Hispanic.

The SACA Development Corporation rehabilitates numerous vacant and blighted properties and returns them to the housing market every year.  The new or renovated housing units are affordably priced housing for low or moderate-income families. 

The SACA also provides many other services:  a senior center, meals, employment assistance, case management, HIV/AIDs./HepC counseling/testing, career development, training and adult education, youth programs, drug and alcohol education, student family liaison, behavioral health services, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, adolescent counseling and therapeutic services.

The SACA Development Corporation’s latest project is the near completion of 13 townhouses under their Homeownership Choice Program.  These homes are priced at $99,600.  Twenty-seven other homes were built or converted in two other phases prior to this third phase.  An East Petersburg, PA contractor won the bid so construction was done by a Lancaster County company. 

These are state of the art, energy-efficient homes with every conceivable convenience built in.  Because these homes are new construction in Lancaster City, the owners will benefit from a tax-abatement program and pay lower property taxes.  This third phase of transformation will reduce blight, reduce crime and stabilize the area with homeowners (stakeholders) versus tenants (transient residents).

The Homeownership Choice Program is available through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.  Money also came from the city, the county, the Federal Home Loan Bank in Pittsburgh, PA Department of Community and Economic Development and Neighborhood Assistance program for tax credits.  Lancaster based Fulton Bank was the construction lender. 

Redevelopment really does take a village!

Pittsburgh And Its Suburbs Having Success With Surveillance Cameras

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The City of Pittsburgh and some adjacent suburbs are successfully using surveillance cameras to deter and solve crime. 

Pittsburgh has surveillance cameras in place downtown and in various neighborhoods throughout the city.  According to their 2009 Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Police, Annual Report, there are 120 cameras throughout the city they hope to tie-in to a wireless platform at the Emergency Operations Center and other key locations for constant monitoring of video and data transmissions. 

Another goal is to have at least 32 cameras on 16 bridges.  The mayor also wants to install gunshot locator and detection cameras in high-risk neighborhoods. (I believe Harrisburg uses these.)

Pittsburgh is adding 28 more cameras, using a $3 million grant along with 25 percent matching funds from the city, as part of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime program.  Pittsburgh’s ultimate goal is a city-wide camera system, which includes the Port of Pittsburgh (the second largest inland port in the U.S.)

Surveillance cameras will be added in suburban Swissvale, prompted by a rash of crime in Regent Square.  Three cameras will be installed along Braddock Avenue within two months.  Ten to twelve more cameras will be added at other locations in the borough.  Each camera costs $9,000, which includes installation, but there are grants available for municipalities to buy surveillance cameras.

Other communities with surveillance cameras include Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall.

Under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh has experienced three consecutive years of historic-crime-lows, according to the city’s website.  According to our friends at City-data.com, Pittsburgh’s crime index has dropped from 558.3 in 2007 to 474.8 in 2009 (Pottstown’s 2009 crime index was 454.7 if you live locally). Murders dropped from 72 in 2008 to 39 in 2009.  Most crime categories showed drops between 2008 and 2009.  2010 crime data is not available at this time.

HINT: If the inexpensive crime tracking software Scranton purchased was used to determine surveillance camera placement that would seem to be an ideal crime fighting tool for Pottstown’s core neighborhood!  Just sayin’….