Bellefonte Council accepts CATA gift

Borough Council voted unanimously Monday to accept a $3,600 gift from the Progress Development Group to bridge a funding gap that threatened CATA service in the area.

The issue came to light in May when the Centre Area Transportation Authority notified the council that $21,505 was needed from the municipality in order to continue transportation services. Council voted unanimously in June to pay an amount of $17,900 — the amount budgeted by the council for the service.

The issue was a matter of increase, Vice President Paul DeCusati said Monday. The amount CATA requested represented a 20 percent increase from last year, he said, and council was trying to protect its residents by saying it was an unreasonable increase.

“CATA needs to take a look at the way they calculate the increases to make them more fair,” Councilman Randall Brachbill said. “Last year, it was a decrease of 10 percent, this year it’s an increase of 20 percent.”

Councilman Brian Walker said the streets committee would be taking a more proactive approach to gathering information from CATA.

DeCusati said he was glad to see Progress Development help fill the gap for this coming year.

“I think it shows how they’re trying to be a community-minded company,” he said.

Following the meeting, CATA Director Louwana Oliva said the reason for the increase was a “perfect storm” of circumstances. Additional services were added to the Bellefonte lines to bridge a three-hour gap in service, but at the same time, the State College area didn’t experience as much growth as it has in the last two years.

“If you look at the growth and the mileage,” she said, “it made (Bellefonte’s) slice in the pie bigger.”

Oliva also said coordinating budgets is difficult as CATA budgets from July to June and Bellefonte budgets from January to December. She said she looks forward to increasing communication between the two entities.

In other business, council was able to come up with an amicable solution to the issue of reserved parking spaces in the borough.

A group of Bellefonte business owners argued in July that allowing the FaithCentre Food Bank to reserve parking spaces for their customers hurts commerce. Twenty-four signatures were gathered on a petition stating that no business be allowed to reserve parking for only their customers.

Bryce Taylor, owner of Jake’s Cards and Games on West High Street, said he was very upset over the parking issue.

“The food bank is important,” he said. “We need it. It’s sad and a shame that we need it so much but we need it in this community.”

He said claims of the negative impact on the economy of the borough were exaggerated, especially in light of the fact that many businesses who signed the petition use street parking for their own workers while at work.

Mayor Thomas Wilson said reserved parking would be switched to Tuesdays and Thursdays under the same hours. The meters at the spaces would be covered with bags indicating 15 minutes of parking only. The parking would also not be restricted to only customers using the food bank, but to anyone doing business in the downtown area.

“At this point,” he said, “the food bank is happy with the compromise and the merchants are happy with the compromise.”