Act 47 teams coming

Working under the direction of the city’s distress coordinator, Altoona officials will soon be creating committees to devise long-term solutions to the city’s financial problems, as specified in its Act 47 recovery plan.

The plan calls for an administrative committee to oversee plan implementation; action teams to deal with “critical areas of weakness;” a citizens advisory committee for creative ideas and transparency; and a “loaned executive program” for special initiatives, according to the recovery plan.

“Let’s get started,” said Mayor Bill Schirf.

“We’re putting the finishing touches on,” said plan coordinator John Espenshade of Stevens & Lee, who expects to have more definitive information about committee formation later this week.

The administrative team will consist of the coordinator as chairman, City Council representatives, the city manager and solicitor, and its mission will be “priority setting and problem solving,” according to the plan. As a corollary, the coordinator will meet periodically with the full City Council in public session to provide updates, according to the plan.

The action teams – organized by the coordinator – may consist of the coordinator, city staff, experts on specific topics, representatives from area governments, businesses and community groups, and consultants. A team will first focus on resolving accounting and cash flow management issues, according to the plan.

The citizens committee will consist mainly of residents who are not candidates for elected office, to avoid giving them an unfair electoral advantage, who will “provide input and ideas on city policy matters in a structured, respectful environment.” The coordinator, city manager and council will determine a setup for appointments, which should emphasize diversity, but may consider the example of New Castle, which appointed 12 residents – two from each neighborhood – plus two at-large members, according to the plan.

The loaned executive committee would “leverage [the] expertise” of the city’s “extraordinarily talented and successful business community,” whose members have repeatedly offered to help, according to the plan. The city manager, council and the coordinator could identify projects for the committee to tackle, according to the plan.

Schirf likes that the coordinator will be coming regularly to meet with council in public and that there will be committees to represent ordinary citizens and business leaders.

Local developer Don Devorris, who led a committee that reviewed the first draft of the recovery plan and would seem to be a candidate for the loaned executive program, complimented city officials on the implementation strategy in the plan.

It can help lead the city out of distress, he said, echoing a common refrain from city officials ever since they agreed to enter the program.

“We’re working full speed ahead,” Espenshade said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.