Indiana County commissioners approve loan for Homer City distillery

Indiana County commissioners approve loan for Homer City distillery

By Greg Reinbold

Saturday, July 20, 2013, 12:39 a.m.

The craft distillery that made waves in Homer City prior to an amendment to the borough's zoning code prompted an unusual moment of dissension at the July 10 meeting of the Indiana County Commissioners.

Disobedient Spirits, LLC, the distillery co-owned by Indiana University of Pennsylvania geography professor Bob Sechrist and his retired colleague Bob Begg, was recommended by the county's Office of Planning and Development for a $35,000 loan through the Indiana County Revolving Loan Fund.

Commissioner David Frick remarked on the distillery's Main Street location adjacent to Homer City United Methodist Church, which hosts weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings on Thursday evenings for individuals struggling with substance abuse, addictions and other challenges.

“It's interesting to me that this business is being established right beside a church in Homer City, if I'm not mistaken,” Frick said.

The motion to award Disobedient Spirits the 42-month loan with a fixed interest rate of 2.75 percent passed 2-1, without Frick's support.

Commissioners Chairman Rodney Ruddock noted the distillery plan has stirred some controversy, but he said the planning commission and borough council of Homer City have scrutinized and voted on the issue.

“We are simply providing the opportunity for (Disobedient Spirits) to secure some additional dollars for a business, much like any other business in Indiana County, that would provide a service and draw employment into the community,” he said.

The loan will partially fund equipment and inventory and the distillery will create two full-time jobs, according to the Office of Planning and Development. Sechrist said he hopes the business will be operating and producing vodka and whiskey for retail sale by June or July of 2014.

The commissioners offered unanimous support to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Research Institute in its application for a Justice Assistance Grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The grant would allow the institute to purchase an $85,000 mobile firearms training simulator, which would be used by the university's Police Training Academy and Army ROTC program as well as campus police and other law enforcement groups.

“It will be a mobile system, so they'll be able to pack it up in the trunks of their vehicles and take it to another police station, another academy across the country, and hopefully train in excess of about 1,000 cadets,” said IUP Research Institute senior grant and contract specialist Tracy Eisenhower. “We have partnership letters of agreements signed by Carnegie Mellon, another university in Pittsburgh and the local police departments, including campus police.”

The institute needed a jurisdiction waiver from the county commissioners, Eisenhower said, because the grants are usually awarded to municipalities and local governments rather than universities.

“They want to make sure that the local government is in favor of the purchase and use of such a piece of equipment,” she explained.

The commissioners approved private provider contracts with 11 agencies used by Children and Youth Services on an as-needed basis and the county's contract with IndiGo

The Indiana County Emergency Management Agency will spend $124,850 in budgeted funds for SBM Electronics, Inc. to upgrade the county's analog recording system to digital.

The commissioners approved one-year contracts with IndiGo to provide medical assistance transportation and Indiana County Community Action Program to provide rental assistance services, homeless case management, bridge housing and emergency shelter services.

The accessibility project at the Burrell Township Volunteer Fire Department building gained priority status after commissioners voted to approve reallocating $68,000 of the township's Community Development Block Grant funds to the project. The funds were originally slated for a water line extension project in Fairfield Heights.

The Office of Planning and Development recommended making the accessibility project a higher priority because the building is used as an emergency disaster center and a polling location for elections. The handicap ramp into the building has deteriorated.

The commissioners also approved a contract amendment extending the termination date of Indiana Regional Medical Center's $1.75-million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant by one year, to July 31, 2014.

The commissioners appointed Milt Lady to the Local Emergency Planning Commission to serve the remainder of a term to expire Feb. 2014 and appointed Linda Schell and Gail Steck to terms on the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board expiring Sept. 30, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014, respectively.

Brent GuyComment