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Unity Township lobby to reopen soon, with renovation nearing end

About an hour ago

Soon residents will be able once more to enter the Unity Township office building during business hours, as renovation of the lobby is nearing completion.

“Hopefully, within the next week, we’re going to have the renovations done and the building will be open for people to come in,” according to Supervisor Mike O’Barto.

Until then, because of covid-19 pandemic precautions, public access to the building on Beatty County Road is restricted to an outer vestibule, where public notices are posted. Citizens must call ahead to arrange meetings with township officials, and a drop box is in place for people to submit tax payments.

Contractor JJ Hauser and Sons is completing the work, which includes installing two payment windows between the lobby and the office of tax collector Mark J. Burkardt. The township is footing the bill for the renovation, which is expected to cost less than $20,000, O’Barto said.

An existing window will continue to be manned by the township receptionist, who will “be able to navigate any residents through the building,” O’Barto said.

The lobby redo, while allowing for social distancing, will “make it more efficient for us and for the people paying their taxes,” supervisors Chairman John Mylant said. He noted the improvement, while prompted by the pandemic, is long overdue.

“People used to be lined up the hallway to pay their taxes,” he said. “Now, they’ll go up to the window without having to go in the tax office.”

“The tax office gets rather busy, especially at the end of the discount period,” O’Barto said.

The work on the lobby follows on the heels of renovations that updated the building’s restrooms, making them compliant with requirements for handicapped accessibility. The township received a $110,000 federal Community Development Block Grant funneled to the township through the state for that project. It was completed by JLD Construction.

In light of the financial hardship many are experiencing during the pandemic, the supervisors extended this year’s deadline for paying taxes at a discount, from April 30 to Aug. 31. The deadline for paying at face value has been pushed back from June 30 to Dec. 31.

Still, Unity is holding its own financially, according to O’Barto. He said tax receipts were down by about $100,000 at the end of June, compared to the same time in 2019, but they were off by just $18,000 at the end of July. Receipts from real estate transfer taxes have increased, he said.

“We’re watching what we’re spending,” he said, while noting, “we’ve paved more roads this year than ever, and we’re seal-coating more roads through the oil-and-chip program.”

The supervisors on Thursday approved a payment of $4,511 toward Derry Construction’s contract of about $477,000 for this year’s township paving project.

O’Barto said the project resurfaced 13 roads including part of Mountain View Drive, Princeton Drive, Sawmill Road Extension and several roads in Lawson Heights.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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