COG could offer more services despite Sewickley departure

Monday, January 7, 2019 | 6:03 AM

Despite operating with decreased revenue, due, in part, to Sewickley’s recent departure, a Quaker Valley Council of Governments (QVCOG) official believes municipalities in the intergovernmental network shouldn’t see a decrease in services, which include waste collection purchasing arrangements and block grant administration.

“Paradoxically, Sewickley leaving has triggered off a chain of events that leads me to expecting that the remaining COG communities will get more services from the COG, because the executive director’s efforts will be refocused,” said QVCOG board of delegate member Matt Doebler.

By leaving QVCOG as of Dec. 31, Sewickley loses access to the organization’s Uniform Construction Code (UCC) Appeals Board. Sewickley council is scheduled to vote Jan. 8 on an ordinance to join Cranberry Township’s appeals board, council President Jeff Neff said.

Appeals of decisions by building code officials would be heard by a board in Cranberry, however interim borough manager Dick Hadley noted in a meeting last month that the borough has only had four appeals in the past 10 years.

Although Sewickley’s departure from QVCOG comes with consequences, the remaining QVCOG member municipalities will not see an increase in dues, said Doebler.

Less revenue, among other factors, did result in lower budgeted compensation for QVCOG Executive Director Susan Hockenberry, who could not be reached for comment. She resigned as full-time executive director last month, although she and the COG board agreed that she will continue in the role on a contractual basis, said Doebler.

He added that moving forward, the executive director will focus on “bigger picture” goals, like a geographic information systems (GIS) project, and less on administrative tasks like federal block grants, which will be handled by another employee.

According to the QVCOG website, municipalities can subscribe to cloud-based GIS services through the COG and receive access to community maps and data sets. QVCOG will also offer technical assistance and training to GIS users this year.

In addition to the GIS project, the QVCOG will focus on a Route 65 corridor study for which they received a grant in 2018. The Route 65 Corridor Project will offer insights to developers and planners about the use of “smart tech” on rural and suburban roads, according to a May report.

“As somebody who lives in the Sewickley Valley and lives in the area, I think it’s an important piece of what is going to happen in 2019 and beyond, because I think that this study is going to lead to some changes,” Doebler said.

Sam Bojarski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.