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Diane Babbin happily holds a commemorative $1 million check from the Pennsylvania Lottery. Babbin, a single mother of two children, purchased the winning Millionaire Maker scratch-off ticket at the Shop ‘n Save grocery store on Dailey Avenue in Latrobe. She is shown here with her family including father Joe LeBlanc (front), brother Danny LeBlanc, mother Laura LeBlanc, daughter Piper Soluri, 18, and son Boston Soluri, 15.

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New facility manager hired at EWCTC

The Joint Operating Committee of the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center signed off on the hiring of Ken Main as facility manager at the school at its meeting Wednesday.

Main was hired at a prorated salary of $65,000, along with all applicable fringe benefits for a term of July 1, 2023, through June 30, 2026.

Main replaces longtime facility manager Ken Millslagle, who plans to retire July 1. Millslagle was also approved by the JOC as a facility manager consultant at $90 per hour should the need arise that Millslagle need to return to help on a project-by-project basis.

In addition, the JOC also honored its student of the month for May, Piper Zufall, a senior from Greater Latrobe, who’s enrolled in the construction trades program.

A member of the National Honor Society and Greater Latrobe girls varsity softball team as starting catcher and as a member of the Viper’s East travel team, Zufall is also a member of the SkillsUSA team, National Technical Honor Society and EWCTC Homebuilder’s Club.

Her instructor, Chad Goodman, said, “Piper excels in both theory and the shop portion of the program. She has remained coachable, gives 100% each day and is a great role model for her peers.”

It wasn’t lost on EWCTC Administrative Director Todd Weimer how unique it is for a female student to not only have an interest in a predominantly male program like construction trades, but to excel in it. In addition, he noted that Goodman is selective when recommending someone for student of the month, so Zufall should consider it an enormous accomplishment.

“He is very strict when it comes to recommending a student; she should be very proud,” Weimer said.

Zufall will be working as a lifeguard at Idlewild & SoakZone this summer and has plans to join the U.S. Navy, where she would like to work in search and rescue missions in aviation.

In addition, Weimer also congratulated the school’s winning culinary team, which defended its “Chopped Champion” at the Greater Johnstown Chopped competition. This was their second first-place finish, scoring back-to-back wins. The team defeated Greater Johnstown, Lenape and CWCTC to prepare an appetizer, a main course and a dessert out of three mystery baskets. Each course was judged and a school eliminated each round.

Weimer also thanked several individuals and businesses for continuing to support the school through donations, including:

  • Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, $500, masonry activity fund;
  • Andrés and Amanda Nemetz, $1,000, automotive technology and collision repair technology activity fund;
  • Stump Fabricating, 21-foot pipes (estimated value of $2,600), welding technology program;
  • Hamill Manufacturing, titanium (estimated value of $320), machine tool technology program;
  • Accurate Maraking Manufacturing, Acetal plastic (estimated value of $828), machine tool technology program;
  • Latrobe Veterans Home Association, $200, automotive/collision repair programs;
  • Paul Lizza Post 3414 VFW Auxiliary, $200, automotive/collision repair programs;
  • Thomas Yoder, $50, automotive/collision repair activity fund, and
  • R.I. Lampus, blocks (estimated value of $216), masonry program.

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May Day Basket Contest shines in the rain

The Weeders and Seeders Club of Ligonier sponsored the first ever May Day Basket Contest Sunday, April 30, and it was a big success.

The merchant winners are:

  • 1st Place — The Wooden Mantel on South Market Street
  • 2nd Place — Quacked Glass Studio on West Main Street
  • 3rd Place — Ligonier Paws On Main Street on West Main Street

Honorable Mentions — Hair Parade on North Market Street; Betsy’s of Ligonier on West Main Street; El Vaquero Mexicano on the Diamond; Scentsational Ideas Candles & Gifts on West Main Street; Artisan’s Marketplace on West Main Street, and Attorney Lynda Dupre on West Main Street.

There were 24 entries by Ligonier residents.

In the adult category, the winners are:

  • 1st Place — Liz Byers
  • 2nd Place — Cathy Torres
  • 3rd Place — Diane Coleman

Honorable Mentions — Jake Krazinski, Debra Palcic, Andrea Kautz, Arlene Lowry and Kathy Zsolcsak.

There was a tie for first place in the children’s category. The winners are:

  • Addyson Byers
  • Lucy Krasinski

The Weeders and Seeders Garden Club of Ligonier would like to thank Ligonier Borough for giving the club the opportunity to hold the event and all of the merchants who donated prizes, handed out flowers or entered the contest.

Participating merchants include: Abigail’s Coffeehouse, Allegory Gallery, Artisan Made Marketplace, Betsy’s of Ligonier, Celtic Culture, Connections Café, Crumpets Tea Shop, El Vaquero Mexicano, The Finishing Touch, Georgia’s Stationery Shop, Hair Parade, Laurel Highlands Olive Oil, My Honey Bee, Ligonier Paws On Main Street, Quacked Glass Studio, Rachel’s Ligonier Floral, Scamps Toffee, Scentsational Ideas Candles & Gifts, Second Chapter Books, Song of Sixpence, The Strawberry Crow, Swansdowne Antiques and Gifts, O’Shea’s Ligonier Sweet Shoppe, Tree House and The Wooden Mantel.

The event was coordinated by Judy Ridgway with the help of Kathy Zsolcsak. The judges included Kate Nuernberger, Dr. Henry Croft, Paula Heming and Angela McDonnell. Club members who also contributed include Michou Jablunovsky, Dr. Wilma Light, Mary Niezelski and Diane Coleman.

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Passport to opportunity

Nearly 300 freshmen from the Greater Latrobe School District will be touring the streets of downtown Latrobe Friday.

But instead of grabbing a bite to eat or getting some shopping done, the students will be on the hunt for opportunity and a stronger connection to the place they call home.

The student field trip is a community service project established by the Leadership Greater Latrobe program. The program is offered by the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The project aims to showcase downtown business and entertainment opportunities while highlighting the city’s rich history. Each student will be provided a passport booklet that will guide them throughout their trip and provide additional information on the places they visit.

The students will gather at Legion-Keener Park Friday morning, passports in hand, before heading out in groups.

Briana Tomack, president of the Chamber, said introducing the students to all Latrobe has to offer is a good way for them to “feel a connection” to the city and region at large.

“Many of them may think there are no jobs or nothing to do here,” Tomack said. “But it’s our job to show them what we have here.”

Students will be broken up into groups based on their career interests and will visit local businesses and organizations related to those industries. Along with learning about future employment opportunities, students will find more information about local internships and volunteer positions with some companies.

The Bulletin is one of the many partners for the field trip and will be a stop for some students Friday. The visit will allow students to get an inside look at a publishing company and news outlet right in their backyard.

“The Latrobe Bulletin is proud to be a part of this inaugural freshman field trip,” said David Cuddihy, the Bulletin and the Ligonier Echo publisher. “We take our role as a pillar of the community seriously and look forward to sharing some of what we all love about this business with the students.”

The inaugural Leadership Greater Latrobe class members, like Michael Tusay, the Latrobe Art Center executive director, have spent the past eight months learning different leadership styles while working to make this field trip experience a reality.

“The community service project encouraged us to find the leader within us,” Tusay said. “There were a lot of moving parts. We had to work with the different companies and each other, which encouraged us to use different skills.”

As with the lessons learned putting the project together, Tusay learned a lot about just how complex the science of leadership can be.

“It’s very complex, and there is not just one definition of leadership,” Tusay said.

Tomack said members of the leadership program spend eight days over nine months listening to lecturers and guest speakers from a wide variety of industries. Leadership lessons are taught by trainers certified in the Maxwell Leadership program.

Members in the Chamber’s program are young leaders throughout a wide range of workforce backgrounds, Tomack said.

Those interested in the program may also be eligible to receive reimbursement through WEDnetPA, which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

In order to provide an opportunity to really get to know downtown Latrobe, Tusay and his fellow team members worked alongside Jessica Yetter, GLSD’s career pathways coordinator.

For Yetter, the freshmen field trip is a solution to conversations area groups like the GLLV Chamber, and others have had for years – how to bring more people to downtown Latrobe?

“For some of these students, if you didn’t grow up (in the downtown area), you might not know or realize these places exist,” Yetter said. “We want to expose them to the possibilities that could impact their future plans.”

After the tour downtown, students will be treated to pizza and banana splits provided by DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant and Valley Dairy.

Yetter said this year’s trip, which has been called “A Tour of the Neighborhood,” will be the test run but hopes to see it become an annual thing.

Tusay, who has worked with GLSD through the art center in the past, said there is a mindset of getting the youth more involved with opportunities in Latrobe.

“There’s definitely a yearning here to connect businesses with the school district and St. Vincent College and (Westmoreland County Community College),” Tusay said.

Tomack said local leaders interested in the Leadership Greater Latrobe program may reach out to the GLLV Chamber or visit its website at

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DTMA seeking new electric supplier

The Derry Township Municipal Authority unanimously approved seeking a new energy supplier contract Wednesday in order to lock in a rate before an expected price hike.

The municipal authority has its electricity supplied by West Penn Power, but it will be raising its rate to $0.109 per kilowatt hour in June.

Authority Manager Owen Meyer has been working with two utility brokerages to find the best rate for the DTMA. Earlier this week, he provided the municipal authority’s solicitor with proposed 18-month contracts for review.

Details of the contracts were not provided, but the DTMA board authorized Meyer to select the contract with “the best rate and service for the authority.” Should the contract review find a sufficient supplier, details of the contract will be available at the next authority meeting.

The municipal authority hasn’t had a contract for its electricity since 2020. Instead, it has been going with whatever rate changes West Penn Power settled on for its customers, Meyer said.

Board Chairman Dan Duralia said he and the board trust Meyer and solicitor William McCabe to find the best provider. He added that even if the rate is only three or four cents cheaper, the savings would be significant.

Meyer said brokers with both firms have been great to work with so far and have provided answers to all of his questions throughout the process.

The municipal authority board unanimously decided to no longer pursue a line of credit for emergency use. Meyer has been working with the authority’s accountant over the past few months to get a handle on the authority’s financial position.

The line of credit was originally pursued because the DTMA had found itself at times paying for contracted services out of its own coffers for projects that were being funded by grants. The authority was reimbursed for all of those payments, typically from the state, but at times those payments were delayed due to required inspections by those entities.

Meyer said he feels much more “comfortable” about where the authority is now.

“I am comfortable with it, but just keep in mind if we’re going to do another project, I think it’s something we should revisit,” Meyer said.

One of the bigger factors in deciding not to pursue the line of credit were the costs and interest for a product it may not need. The DTMA would have to pay around $2,750 in fees, and interest on the money borrowed was fixed at 8.5%.

“It won’t take us long to get a line of credit if we need it, and the rates might be better,” said Pat DiCesere, DTMA vice chairman.

The board continued discussion related to the Torrance State Hospital sewage treatment plant project. No new estimates on costs or rates were provided to the board by the state hospital.

Meyer did provide the board with up-to-date figures on how much sewage is pumped into the system by the authority. Both the DTMA and Torrance are the biggest users of the systems. Both entities have an agreement dating back to 1999 that outlines improvement and capital project responsibilities. Those formulas are based on usage.

Meyer told the board that current rates put the DTMA’s usage between 51% and 58% depending on factors like the inclusion of sewage run through the Dogwood station.

Original figures put the DTMA’s usage at around 65%, but recent work by the municipal authority has been able to reduce that percentage.

The board agreed it wants to see updated numbers provided by the state hospital on construction costs and expected usage fees before it makes a decision.

Should the authority find the usage rates to be extremely high, it would be allowed to terminate the 1999 agreement so long as it has another adequate sewage treatment plan in place. The DTMA could also offer to take over the operation of the sewage treatment plant, reversing the roles of the agreement and providing an opportunity for system expansion.

The DTMA will hold its next meeting 5:30 p.m. June 28 at the Derry Township Municipal Authority building.

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Ligonier Borough Planning Commission discusses blighted properties

The Ligonier Borough Planning Commission returned after a months-long hiatus this week to discuss blighted properties and what – if any – authority the commission has in prompting homeowners to fix them.

Newest planning commission member Karen Lynn, who Ligonier Borough Council appointed in February, raised concerns Tuesday night about properties around town she’s noticed are in disrepair, blighted or abandoned.

“In not doing anything and just letting it all go by and hope that they will take action and repair their properties, we’re not servicing all the homeowners around them,” Lynn said. “What can we do to get the homeowners to bring their homes into compliance under our existing laws?”

While the planning commission has no enforcement power, and local government can’t regulate a property’s aesthetics, Ligonier Borough does have a property maintenance ordinance. This law, which is separate from the zoning ordinance, covers items including brush, grass and weeds; garbage and recycling; snow and ice removal, and unlicensed vehicles.

Solicitor George Welty explained that any complaints are investigated by Zoning and Code Enforcement Officer Karl Horman, who can cite property owners who violate the ordinance. If not addressed, the borough can escalate the matter to the office of Magisterial District Court Judge Denise Snyder Thiel.

The planning commission does not have the authority to cite homeowners for failing to comply with the property maintenance ordinance, Welty said, although any individual can file a complaint as a private citizen.

Horman and his predecessors have had past success speaking with residents about taking care of their property maintenance issues, according to Welty.

“While there’s still properties that fail to meet this (ordinance), there has been a fair amount of instances where Karl’s been able to get things rectified as well,” council representative Nate Sylvester said, pointing to Horman’s work with addressing junk cars in Ligonier Borough.

Welty advised the planning commission against identifying any of the properties in question. Borough Secretary-Treasurer Jan Shaw said Horman, who could not attend the meeting, was aware of five such examples. At least one is under foreclosure, Welty said.

“I really want to clean up these eyesores in town that have been sitting here for years, since I moved back to town five years ago,” Lynn said. “I think we need to take action, not as a planning commission, but however legally we can do this.”

The planning commission also briefly discussed properties that Ligonier Borough maintains but does not own – one is Franklin Street Extension, an unopened road, and the second is a highway right of way along U.S. Route 30 near West Loyalhanna Street where the local Boy Scouts troop holds an annual Christmas tree sale.

Lynn suggested the borough consider leasing or selling these small, non-buildable areas to generate income. However, they aren’t owned by the borough and they’re not taxable parcels or assigned a unique tax map number.

“As a council member, I appreciate the thought on interesting ways to create revenue, because that’s something that the council does kind of wrestle with. I don’t know if that’s the purpose of the planning commission, to generate those ideas, maybe more public comment at a council meeting, or discussions with council members,” Sylvester said.

In other business, the Ligonier Borough Planning Commission also reorganized for 2023, reelecting Peggy Shepler as chairwoman and selecting Peter Fitzner as vice chairman. Tuesday’s meeting was its first since December 2022, due to lack of agenda. The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, at Ligonier Town Hall.