Three deer, that appeared interested in the salt on Drake Well Road, decided not to stick around long after the photographer got out of his car and started slowly moving to get a little closer.
Despite the figid temperatures and it being the day after Christmas, work continued at the former Perkins site on East Central Avenue in Titusville Monday. The Capital Group Construction contractors have concrete poured and are working on the framing. Monday they were working on constructing walls on the ground to be lifted into place later.
Titusville is ending the year on a few positive notes – monetary notes that is. Two city groups received state funding this month.
The Greater Titusville Development Foundation was awarded $25,000 for its ongoing Downtown Titusville Façade Improvement Program. The initiative is focused on improving existing façades in the downtown business district and has done eight rounds of local funding since its inception in 2016.
The project provides a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $5,000 to businesses investing in facade improvements as a way to encourage upgrades to the appearance of the downtown and embrace the historical character of the city. In the past six years, $180,495 has been given to city businesses.
The latest round of state funding comes to the GTDF from the Keystone Communities Program, which awarded nearly $8 million to 51 projects across the state.
Earlier this month the Titusville Police Department received a $132,721 grant from the state’s Local Law Enforcement Support Program.
Across the state, $120 million was awarded to more than 197 law enforcement agencies and county district attorneys’ offices. In Venango County, the Franklin Police Department received $80,762 and the Oil City department was granted $399,868.
“These grant programs are one more tool in our toolbox to create safer communities across Pennsylvania,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “With adequate resources, our local law enforcement and investigative offices can better protect and serve.”
A Titusville School District-wide sing along took place Saturday in Scheide Park. A few dozen folks braved the cold temperatures to fill the downtown with song and Christmas cheer. The middle of the day event was put out last week on social media. Lyric sheets were handed out for the list of around 50 holiday classics.
The Erie to Pittsburgh Trail effort to tackle the "simpler part" of the Hydetown to Titusville connection first in order to move the project along.
"It could be done in the near future," Ron Steffey told Titusville City Council Monday night during a trail update presentation. The proposed plan, created by Steffey Trail Connections on behalf of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail Alliance, would build a trail from Garden Street to Kerr Mill Road by way of the O'Rourke Field area.
The groups recently made a lot of headway on sections of trail to the north of Titusville known as the East Branch Trail. Volunteers completed nearly 2.5 miles of trail between Hydetown and Spartansburg. Money has been secured to complete $1 million worth of work toward the trail in Sparta Township. A group of volunteers in Corry is tackling trail and maintenance needs.
"There is starting to be a lot more excitement for the East Branch Trail and connection from Hydetown to Spartansburg and from Spartansburg to Corry," Steffey said.
He also pointed toward plans to expand the trail system owned by the Oil Creek State Park.
"That kind of leaves from Titusville to Hydetown and in Titusville as the connections we need to make," he said.
To move that section from theory to reality, Steffey suggested turning their attention first toward what he called the "simpler part" - the O'Rourke Field Connections. The trail would connect from Kerr Mill Road to Garden Street predominantly along a section of unused railroad property. Steffey and Titusville City Manager Neil Fratus have already begun talks with the railroad to gauge their interest in the project.
"It is going to take an agreement with the railroad," Steffey said Monday night.
The city's role would be to continue participating in those conversations and serve as a manager or owner of the future trail as needed. This will help secure use of the land from the railroad and money from grants and other sources. It will also make it easier to recruit and engage volunteers for the project, according to Steffey.
"Let's show the different funders that we're doing something," he said.
Tackling the "simpler" section between Titusville and Hydetown may also provide the momentum needed to solve the overall issue of creating the full connection, which is something people continue to wonder about. "How are you going to get from there (Hydetown) to Titusville?" councilman William McCrillis asked.
Steffey gave no definitive answer. The presentation he provided council prior to the meeting suggested that once the O'Rourke Field Connection is complete, the remainder of the distance between the city and the borough would be done as "two smaller and more manageable projects" - Kerr Mill Road to Hydetown and Garden Street to the Queen City Trail across town.
"The success of one project will elevate the other, but the obstacles in one project will not slow down the other project," the presentation said.
This could also address the need to connect the trail to the downtown businesses, pubs and other amenities, according to Mayor Jon Crouch. He was joined by the other council members in giving verbal support to the proposal.
Steffey said he plans to talk with Oil Creek Township officials in January and hopes to return to the Titusville council with another update that month as well.
"It is going to take a lot of cooperation to get up to Hydetown," Steffey said.
A Titusville resident with the remains of a Manchester, England accent was ringing the Salvation Army bell outside the Northwest Savings Bank on the corner of W. Spring and South Franklin streets Friday afternoon. Gary Barnes and the Knights of Columbus have been volunteering on the weekends to ring bells in eight locations around the area. Barnes thanked folks as they dropped cash in the kettle. One man stopped and dropped in a wad of folding money and said he volunteered one year to be a bell ringer. "I couldn't even get my friends to look at me," he said, indicating donations were hard to come by. But Barnes, located outside the bank, seemed to be having pretty good success.
Titusville Council approved the 2023 budget with no changes to the tax rates. The $10,578,439 spending plan provides funding for the first year of the new part-time ambulance service at the fire department, renovations at the city hall building, updates to the parking meters and upgrades to a municipal parking lot.
City Manager Neil Fratus read a brief breakdown of the fixed tax rate proposal before city council Monday night in the conference room on the second floor of the Town Square building. The tax rate will remain at 26.713 mils for buildings and 71.25 mills on land. The 2023 garbage, water and sweage rates were set during the December 5 meeting.
"In a nutshell: No tax increase," Fratus told council Monday night.
The spending plan was developed through a series of meetings among city officials and employees and was open to the public throughout the process.
“It’s been a pleasure working with council, with Neil and with the department heads (and with our) financial supervisor to have a balanced budget. We had some raucous discussions at times but they were all public meetings. I think this year, we had seven and here we are at our second reading and we have a great budget," said Mayor Jon Crouch.
Council unanimously approved the fixed tax rate with no increase and a budget for the upcoming year without further discussion on either vote. Nothing had been changed since approval of the first reading, according to Fratus.
In other council news
The next council meeting was scheduled for January 2, but has been moved to January 3 at 6:30 p.m. because the 2nd is New Years Day observed.
Titusville High School music director Kevin Vinson showcased his concert band Thursday night at the school's Colestock Auditorium. The concert band performed Robert Smith's "Encanto" followed by "Brighton Beach" by William P. Latham. Then the flautists Grace Hamilton, Olivia Hironimus, Emma Slouch and Elizabeth Watkins performed Updownsky's "Russian Dance." They tried to evoke summer warmth with "As Summer Was Just Beginning" and a selection from "West Side Story." Then Vinson grabbed his sax to join students Alex Reynolds, Leo Clementi and fellow teacher Patrick Vetter on "The Banana Boat Song." They then closed out the show with "Good King Wenceslas" and "Deck The Halls With Old Composers."
Screenshot from the Stream TV coverage of Monday's meeting
Titusville City Council recognized the work of Canon Martha Ishman at Monday’s meeting. Mayor Jon Crouch read a proclamation listing many of the accomplishments of the Reverend of the St. James Memorial Episcopal Church who is stepping down at the end of the year.
“Martha Ishman exemplified what it means to serve courageously and live faithfully. She will be missed,” Crouch said.
Ishman, who gave the prayer at the start of Monday's meeting, has served in Titusville since 2011. During that time she is credited with the restoration projects at St. James, including the stonework, renovating the stained glass windows and saving the pipe organ.
Crouch also praised her work with the soup kitchen and shelter. “She really cares for those in need whether they are parishioners or not.”
A 1998 graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary, Ishman says she has always been passionate about small churches, according to an article on the church’s website. “Small churches are embedded in their communities and in many ways are too resilient to fail. But with well-formed clergy leadership, these congregations can be a powerful voice for change.”
There will be a reception for her following an organ recital on Saturday at the church. Logan Hamilton will perform at 2 p.m. The event is free.
Her last sermon will be January 8.
Eight & 27 focuses on stories centered around Titusville, PA. With the sad end of The Titusville Herald, we're hoping to pick up the slack.