The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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June 26, 2013

New councilman outlines ideas

JOHNSTOWN — Joseph Taranto knows his time on Johnstown City Council will be brief.

He was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the board in May. His term will expire in January.

With not much time available, Taranto has put together a small list of objectives, mostly dealing with disruptive properties and beautification, that he would like to accomplish. He presented his ideas to fellow council members during a workshop on Wednesday.

“For the short period of time that I’m going to be here until the end of the year, I could quickly get these done without having a long term to do it in,” Taranto said.

Taranto proposed forming a subcommittee of volunteers to compile data – provided by the city’s police department, fire department and codes enforcement office – in order to create a database of disruptive properties. Council seemed receptive to possibly forming the group, but wanted to make sure Solicitor David Andrews provided advice first about how such a program could be legally implemented.

“We need to put it with the proper controls,” Deputy Mayor Frank Janakovic said.

Councilwoman Marie Mock wants to make sure that if the committee is created, safeguards will be in place to make sure members do not resemble a group of “vigilantes.”

“I want it to look like an organized movement,” Mock said.

Two of Taranto’s other proposals dealt directly with blighted properties. He would like council to enact an ordinance that would require anybody who purchases a property – except those used as primary residences – to deposit a minimum of $10,000 for the city to use if the structure eventually becomes vacant and needs to be maintained or demolished.

He also wants to provide qualifying residential owners the opportunity to buy condemned properties that abut their own land, if they are willing to pay for the cost of demolishing any run-down structures on the neighboring tract.

Taranto also suggested relaunching the city’s shade tree commission and area arts council.

He would like to explore the possibility of restoring some city streets to brick, especially in historic districts, whenever the asphalt now in place needs to be repaired. Taranto said brick roads would be cheaper, easier to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of neighborhoods.

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