Chairman considers shrinking board

Because of the death of two Blair County Planning Commission members and a pending resignation of a third, the chairman has suggested downsizing the nine-member board.

In addition, perhaps the county planning commission should evaluate the future of its 24-member advisory board, which seems to be drawing minimal interest, Chairman William Hall said.

The ideas surfaced during the commission’s meeting Thursday where Hall appointed commission members Jo Ann Nardelli of Newry to serve as secretary and James Dixon of Altoona to serve as treasurer until the group holds elections later this year.

Nardelli will fill the secretary’s office that became vacant when Ernest Hetrick of Williamsburg died Dec. 4. Dixon will fill the treasurer’s office being vacated by Robert Gutshall of Altoona. Gutshall said he is involved in too many organizations and is declining another term on the county planning commission.

In addition, the commission lost member Ray Amato of Antis Township when he died Dec. 19.

Hall said he and planning commission Director David McFarland recently met with Blair County Commissioner Diane Meling to discuss the vacancies and the options.

The commissioners are responsible for appointing members to the commission, a governmental body formed in the 1960s by Blair County’s municipalities. Under the commission’s bylaws, the board contains three representatives from the boroughs, three from the townships and three from Altoona.

Associations representing those municipal leaders have traditionally forwarded nominees to commissioners. When Hall suggested that those groups haven’t been offering nominees, member Don Rabenstein said he was at the most recent boroughs association meeting and asked for recommendations.

Hall suggested that perhaps the nine-member board could be reduced to seven, with two representatives each from the boroughs, townships and Altoona, plus one at-large member. But that idea, Hall said, will need some research and more discussion.

Until vacancies are filled, the commission agreed to temporarily suspend a bylaw requirement describing a quorum as five members. It can be restored as soon as appointments are made, Hall said.

The commission also agreed Thursday to offer health insurance to its six employees in 2014, as long as enough employees sign up for a group plan offered through JJan Financial Services, Hollidaysburg. Interested employees will be required to pay 10 percent of the plan’s premium.

The commission did not decide what it will do if it lacks enough participation to qualify for group health insurance. In 2013, the commission provided employees with a $3,000 stipend toward the cost of health insurance.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.