Meadville Tribune

December 29, 2012

Meadville government (and residents) feeling pinch of financial burdens


Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — The Meadville Tribune continues its review of the top Crawford County news stories of 2012. It’s likely that all of the stories are familiar to Tribune readers, and more than 100 of you took part in helping to limit the list of headlines to just 15, then choose their order of importance to the community.

We started with the story rated number 15 on Friday, and will proceed through the list to number one, the story voted as most important of the year, in Tuesday’s Tribune.

10-Meadville’s financial woes lead to discussions, changes

Residents of the City of Meadville will see their property tax rates fall by 2.39 percent in 2013, but the decrease shouldn’t be taken as an indication that the city’s rolling in dough. After beginning 2012 with 68 full-time and 27 part-time employees, the city will close the year with job duties reshuffled and full- and part-time staffing numbers adjusted to 63 and 30, respectively.

With most of the land that can be developed already occupied, a tax base that has remained constant for more than 25 years and tax-exempt organizations taking 40 percent of the total assessed value of property located within city limits off the tax rolls, elected officials are encouraging members of the tax-exempt community to contribute to the cost of delivering necessary services — police and fire protection as well as the cost of maintaining roadways, for example.

With Meadville Medical Center and Allegheny College leading the way, six organizations contributed almost $144,000 to the city in 2012.

9-Meadville’s stormwater problems leading to new fee

The City of Meadville embarked on the development and implementation of a stormwater management program, complete with a user fee designed to generate additional revenue while creating a dedicated funding mechanism to maintain the city’s aging stormwater infrastructure.

With city staff working with consultants during the past year to analyze program needs, identify costs and educate and engage critical stakeholders in the process, the program is essentially complete and billing is scheduled to begin in January, although the part of the program that would allow for credit to be given for the installation and maintenance of best stormwater management practices is not yet in place.

The annual stormwater management fee for owners of all single-family detached residential units in the city will be $90. Others will pay based on the square footage of impermeable surfaces covering each property.

8-School district budgets require extra efforts; Conneaut District schools consolidate

As area public school districts tightened their belts in the face of changing state and federal funding climates and a stagnant property-tax base, Conneaut School District took a step that was hotly debated and ultimately rejected by the school board more than a decade ago.

Beginning in September, grades nine through 12 at Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley and Linesville high schools were consolidated into a single facility called Conneaut Area Senior High on the district’s Linesville campus. The former Lake and Valley elementary and high schools now serve as elementary and middle schools for the entire district.

Also in September, six Crawford Central School District elementary schools serving the greater Meadville and Cochranton areas were redistricted down to five in an effort to trim expenses while also reducing the number of students in some classrooms.

In PENNCREST School District, cost-cutting measures were also implemented, but the district’s three elementary and three junior-senior high schools remained intact.

7-Numerous homicide cases in county courts

The courts in Crawford County were busy this year as numerous homicide cases wound their way through the system.

In January, a Crawford County jury found Patricia Oliver, 54, of the Conneautville area not guilty in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in the October 2010 shotgun slaying of her husband, Anthony Oliver. The jury found Mrs. Oliver acted in self-defense.

In May, Gary Wiley, 39, of Linesville was given consecutive life sentences after being convicted in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas for the April 2010 double murder of Tod and Laurie Prenatt of Linesville.

In June, Edward Herrick, 40, of Meadville was sentenced to five to 10 years in state prison for the death of Dorothy Miller of Hartstown. Herrick pleaded guilty in April to a charge of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence for causing the October 2011 crash in Meadville that claimed Miller’s life.

In July, two young Cochranton area women — Ashley Marie Barber, 20, and Jade Nichole Olmstead, 19 — were ordered held for trial on homicide charges for allegedly brutally attacking Brandy Stevens, 20, and burying Stevens alive in a shallow grave near Cochranton. The trial of Barber and Olmstead is scheduled for 2013.

In October, Deidre Stoll was given five and one-half to 20 years in state prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the fatal October 2011 stabbing death of her husband, Willis Stoll, 50.

In November, Brandon Todd Tracy, 19, of Titusville was sentenced to a total of 25 to 50 years in prison; Austin Lee Taylor, 19, of Harmonsburg was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison; and Alan J. Watkins, 20, of Harmonsburg was sentenced to 19 to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty in the fall to murdering Ronald Shreffler of Conneautville at his Summerhill Township home in August 2011. A fourth person in the case, Dakota Taylor, of Harmonsburg, went through juvenile court, and he was ordered to serve in a state juvenile correctional facility until he is 21.

Tomorrow: Top stories 6, 5 and 4.