City going after three Act 47 recovery grants

The City of Altoona’s finance director has begun applying to the state for three grants totaling $519,000, as called for in the city’s Act 47 recovery plan.

“My understanding is that as long as we apply, we will get it,” said Omar Strohm.

Grant opportunities are one of the benefits of Act 47 participation.

The single application to the Department of Community and Economic Development asks for $250,000 to devise a housing strategy and investment plan for downtown, $225,000 for information technology improvements and $44,000 for the Blair County Tax Collection Bureau.

Together, the projects will help the city “through improved efficiencies and effectiveness of services and investments that will foster tax base growth potential,” the plan states.

The downtown project would include a “detailed housing and commercial market analysis, conceptual design and strategies for building reinvestment efforts,” the plan states.

It would take as models for future reinvestment the Railroaders Memorial Museum and the Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, both of which could encourage growth, according to the plan.

The IT improvements would include a $50,000 information technology audit to make sure any changes are cost-effective; a $70,000 accounting/budgeting/procurement system; a $120,000 conversion to “broadband cards” to improve public safety communications and reduce IT operating costs; and a system that would consolidate revenue collection, at a cost not yet determined.

The Tax Collection Bureau project would defray the cost of programming changes that would enable the bureau to collect the additional earned income tax the city has levied as a result of Act 47 lifting the cap on that tax.