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Latrobe council welcomes new mayor, two new members

A mayor with five years of experience serving the City of Latrobe took the helm as two new faces joined Latrobe City Council on Monday night, marking the beginning of a new era following the November general election.

Officially sworn into office, Latrobe Mayor Eric Bartels, a Republican who previously was serving as deputy mayor, took the reigns from former Mayor Rosie Wolford, who decided not to run for a third term last year.

New council members Ann Amatucci and Bridget DiVittis — the two candidates who won the most votes in the council election and who appeared on both the Democratic and Republican ballots — also took the oath of office, joined by incumbent council member James Kelley, a Democrat, during council’s annual reorganization meeting.

Council noted during the meeting that with Bartels taking the lead as mayor, his former council seat is open, and the city is looking for candidates interested in filling the position.

Anyone who wants to put their name up for consideration should send an email or letter of intent. City Manager Michael Gray can be reached at, while the mailing address for the Latrobe Municipal Building (Latrobe City Hall) is P.O. Box 829, Latrobe, PA 15650.

Council plans to consider all candidates at its agenda prep meeting later this month in the hopes of having a new council member in place in February.

Bartels said that even though last year’s was an odd-year election, it was “still encouraging to see how many people came out and cast their votes and still have faith in the system we have (and) hopefully faith in the council that is up here.”

He thanked Gray and the city’s department heads for their service in spite of a tough situation resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I am encouraged by these things, and I’m excited to serve the city,” he said, adding his appreciation for Wolford’s support and encouragement.

He also pleaded with city residents to come to more council meetings and voice their thoughts and opinions, whatever they may be, and thanked Amatucci and DiVittis for stepping up to the plate.

Bartels and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Nolan and Simon.

Amatucci said she is a lifelong resident of Latrobe and noted that she decided to run for a seat on council because she wanted to give back.

She noted that she has no particular agenda aside from wanting to promote fiscal responsibility and the city’s continued growth as a welcoming place for families.

“I want to do more to invite young families in and to help families who have been here to stay,” she said.

“I want this to continue to be a place where community matters.”

Amatucci and her husband, John, have three children: Vinny, Louie and Gabby.

DiVittis noted that she wants to see more activities and events for families and children.

“I’d like more things for children to do, of all ages,” she said.

She said she also wants the city to support local businesses, “however (it) can.”

DiVittis and her husband Marc have three children: Meghan, Joseph and Catherine.

In other business during the reorganization meeting, council appointed council member Ralph Jenko as the new deputy mayor; Karen Meholic as city secretary; John Greiner (representing law firm Tremba, Kinney, Greiner, & Kerr) as solicitor; and Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. as city engineer.

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Unity Township supervisors make O’Barto 2022 chair

In a reorganization meeting held Monday, the Unity Township supervisors voted to have longtime supervisor Mike O’Barto step into the role of chairman for 2022, with Ed Poponick as vice chairman.

O’Barto, who said that 2022 marks his 21st year as supervisor, is looking forward to a great year.

“We’ve been working on and will continue to work on paving projects,” said O’Barto.

He said in the last year, the township has done some “significant” paving in 2021 and that will continue into 2022.

O’Barto also wanted to thank his fellow supervisor John Mylant, who led the board as chair for the last four years. “This has been a really nice board to work with,” added O’Barto.

He also mentioned looking forward to the parks and recreation improvements to the playgrounds in Pleasant Unity and at the municipal building thanks to a recently awarded grant.

In other beginning-of-the-year actions, the board approved:

  • Sharon Sweeney as township secretary and co-Right to Know coordinator with Gail Rause;
  • Julieanne Zoppetti as township treasurer, and setting the bond at $1 million;
  • O’Barto, Poponick and Mylant as roadmasters of Districts 1, 2 and 3, respectively;
  • Gary Falatovich as township solicitor;
  • Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. as the township’s engineering firm;
  • Emil Bove as sewage enforcement office and Michael Stack as alternate;
  • Tom Schultheis as emergency management coordinator;
  • Tim Quinn was appointed to the vacancy board;
  • Tom Couch was named to a five-year term to the Unity Township Municipal Authority board, term to expire at the end of 2026. Compensation for UTMA members was approved at $50 per meeting with a monthly total not to exceed $150/month;
  • Resignation of Richard Donati from the township planning commission with Schultheis to fill his unexpired term, which expires at the end of the year, and Eric Turin and Dave Oshnock to fill two three-year terms, which end on Dec. 31, 2024;
  • Scott Balliett to the construction code appeals board for a five-year term to expire in 2026;
  • Resignation of Clement Matta as auditor with Ed Saxton appointed to fill unexpired two-year term, ending on Dec. 31, 2024;
  • Merle Musick, Steve Yanchik and Greg Fumea as zoning officers, code enforcement and building inspectors for the township. Harry Hosack was named temporary part-time code enforcement/zoning officer;
  • Commercial Bank & Trust of PA as primary bank and First Commonwealth Bank as secondary;
  • Mark Burkardt and Chris Stewart as tax collector and deputy tax collector.

The supervisors also set the meetings for the second Thursday of the month and agenda sessions for the second Monday. Meetings start at 4:30 p.m.

They also named the three township supervisors as delegates for the state convention and Poponick as the official voting member. Mileage rate for travel to the convention was set at 58.5 cents per mile.

Bonds for the office staff were also set at $100,000 per staff member. The supervisors also decided to set benefits for non-union employees the same as for union employees.

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Derry council to retain same leadership in 2022

Derry Borough Council is maintaining the same leadership for 2022, as it reappointed Sara Cowan as president and Barbara Phillips as vice president at Monday’s reorganization meeting.

Cowan earned another one-year term as president in a 3-2 vote, with Al Checca and Chad Fabian dissenting.

Phillips was voted as president via a 5-0 vote. Newly-elected councilman Robert White was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Before Cowan’s vote, Fabian had nominated Checca for council president, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Also at Monday’s reorganization, newly-elected Mayor Grant Nicely, council members Chad Fabian and Barbara Phillips and tax collector Kristen Kozar were sworn by Derry Township Magisterial District Judge Kelly Tua Hammers. White will be sworn in at a later date.

In other business Monday, council approved:

  • Lee Demosky as solicitor;
  • Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. as engineering firm;
  • Tim Rennie as CPA as his proposal to conduct the 2021 borough and tax audits;
  • To give the fire chief permission to change 911 call-outs;
  • A resolution that borough police officers shall not be required to make contributions to the police pension fund for the 2022 calendar year;
  • Cowan as the primary and Lori Lata as secondary voting delegate for the Westmoreland County Tax Collection committee, effective Jan. 4;
  • To advertise for a council vacancy;
  • To advertise for the Derry Community Pool manager position.

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Derry Township signs on to join county in proposed opioid lawsuit settlement

Derry Township is the latest area municipality to sign on to join Westmoreland County in a proposed national settlement of lawsuits against several drug companies related to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

At Monday’s regular meeting, Derry Township supervisors agreed to sign on for the proposed $26-billion national settlement, retroactive to Dec. 29, 2021.

The settlement would end thousands of government-based lawsuits against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmeriscourceBergen Corp., as well as drug manufacturer Jansen Pharmaceutical Inc. and its parent company, Johnson & Johnson.

If the county can get its 11 eligible municipalities to agree to sign on, then they and the county could net up to $22 million, paid out over a duration of 18 years. The number of municipalities with 10,000 or more residents in each county that sign on determine how much funding will become available. However, just how that funding will be spent is still to be determined.

Last month, Unity Township and Hempfield Township were among the other county municipalities to agree to join the settlement.

The three largest of the U.S. drug distributors recently announced an extension to the deadline until Jan. 26. Approximately $10.7 billion of the overall $26 billion is dependent on how many municipalities and counties decide to participate, according to Reuters.

At the annual township reorganization held before Monday’s regular meeting, Dave Slifka was reappointed as supervisors chairman and Jim Prohaska as vice chairman.

Other township appointments for 2022 include:

  • Donna Wano as secretary and treasurer;
  • To set the treasurer’s bond at $1 million;
  • To designate First Commonwealth Bank and Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust (PLGIT) as depositories for township funds;
  • To set the mileage rate of $0.585 per mile for the calendar year, per the IRS rate;
  • Dave Slifka, Jim Prohaska and Don Kepple as roadmasters;
  • To maintain three road districts and to appoint roadmasters to the following locations: Kepple for District 1, Slifka as District 2 and Kepple as District 3;
  • Dodaro, Matta & Cambest, PC, as solicitor;
  • Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. as engineer at will;
  • Kelly, Sparber, White & Associates LLC as account and payroll services;
  • Emil Bove as certified sewage enforcement officer;
  • Award insurance contract to Varine-Slavin Inc.;
  • Terry Giannini as emergency management director;
  • John Rusnock as member of vacancy board;
  • Appoint Joe Dixon to the Derry Township Municipal Authority (DTMA) board for a five-year term;
  • Appoint Mark Piantine as fire chief;
  • To hold meetings on the first Tuesday of the month. This year’s supervisors meeting time has been changed to 5 p.m.;
  • For the supervisors to attend the annual Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors Convention April 24-27, with the voting delegate to be the chairman or vice chairman. Supervisors will be paid their normal wages and expenses that include room, meals and travel;
  • To continue all township policies and procedures, milage and fire hydrant and street light taxes at 2021 levels, including: Real estate tax — 3.0 mills; earned income tax — 1% (50% to township and 50% to Derry Area School District); amusement tax — 5% (price of admission); municipal lien letters — $25: street light tax — $20 occupied parcels and $10 vacant parcels; fire hydrant — $6 (flat rate); driveway permits — $25; road bonding — $12,500 per mile; solicitation permits — $50 per month, and encroachment permits (per PennDOT fee schedule);
  • A resolution to designate all parks and playgrounds in the township as being tobacco free in conjunction with the state Department of Health’s Young Lungs in Play program.

At last month’s meeting, the supervisors approved a $4,614,428 final budget without a tax increase.

The budget is about $1.15 million more than the 2021 spending plan. The township’s current millage rate is 3.0 mills.

The budget includes $58,527 in the general fund and $586,034 in capital improvement Act 13 impact fee funds, along with $723,743 in coronavirus relief funds.

According to the spending plan, the township’s earned income taxes are $1,350,000, real estate taxes are $389,500 and local service taxes at $220,000. The earned income and local service taxes remain at the same rate as 2021 with real estate taxes bumping up $5,000 over the previous year’s spending plan.

Supervisors added that Christmas “Tree-cycling” is available at the township municipal building, 5321 Route 982, through Jan. 31 (open drop off). Officials also reminded residents to remove vehicles and portable basketball hoops off the roads, and to not throw snow onto township rights of way.

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Ligonier supervisors appoint new chair and solicitor for 2022

While most of Ligonier Township’s staff and appointed positions remain unchanged for 2022, officials have decided to begin the new year with a new board chair and solicitor.

The Ligonier Township Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 3-2 to appoint Dan Resenic as its new chairman. Newly-elected supervisor Erik Ross joined supervisors Scott Matson and Resenic in favor of the leadership change, while supervisor Stephanie Verna and previous chairman John Beaufort were opposed.

The board unanimously chose Beaufort as vice chairman and reappointed Verna as secretary-treasurer.

“I look forward to a productive, cooperative and amicable 2022,” Resenic said at the close of the board’s reorganization meeting.

The township will also consult new legal counsel as the supervisors voted 3-2 to engage attorney Daniel Hudock of Latrobe, who replaces former solicitor Michael Korns of the Pittsburgh-based law firm Maiello, Brungo & Maiello.

Hudock, who also serves as solicitor for the Ligonier Township Municipal Authority (LTMA), will earn the same $125 hourly rate.

Jim Nieusma will continue as Ligonier Township’s zoning and community development officer, code enforcement officer and open records officer, with administrative assistant Tracy Legato as assistant code enforcement and open records officer.

Bethany Caldwell was reappointed as the township’s finance officer, assistant secretary-treasurer, and alternate representative for the Act 32 Westmoreland County Wage Tax Committee.

The supervisors retained Ben Faas and Jake Bolby of The EADS Group as the township’s engineers with a $123-$133 contracted hourly rate and a $125 flat meeting rate. Mike D’Arrigo stays as sewage enforcement officer with Apex Engineering as alternate.

Other reappointments included Susan McBroom and Judy Ridgeway to new five-year terms on the township’s planning commission and recreation board, respectively, both expiring at the end of 2026. Linda McDowell will also begin a new four-year term on the zoning hearing board, ending Dec. 31, 2025.

A five-year term remains vacant on the zoning hearing board.

All planning commission and zoning hearing board members will be compensated $30 per meeting. The supervisors will receive annual stipends of $2,500 — to be paid on a quarterly basis — which is the maximum amount allowed under Pennsylvania’s Second Class Township code and approved by Ligonier Township’s three elected auditors.

One of the auditor seats — a six-year term — is also empty. The supervisors hope to gauge interest in the position for discussion at their next meeting.

Beaufort will again serve as Ligonier Township’s emergency management coordinator, with Steve Kozar as assistant emergency management coordinator.

Chris Light was reappointed for another five-year term on the LTMA board through Dec. 31, 2026. Rick Penrod was appointed chairman of the vacancy board while John Rhodes will continue as chairman for the township’s Agricultural Security Program, along with Lewis Thomas and Alan Smith.

Approved financial services include Berkheimer as collector of Ligonier Township’s Act 511 taxes plus wages and local services taxes, and Wessel & Company as the township’s certified public accountant for the 2021 audit.

The supervisors selected First Commonwealth Bank as the township’s depository for the General Fund, the Developers/Escrow Fund and the Ligonier Beach Park Fund. Commercial National Bank will be the depository for the Liquid Fuels Fund and the Capital Fund.

The board also set the treasurer’s bond at $600,000 and authorized the following signers for the township’s financial accounts this year: supervisors Beaufort, Verna, Ross and Resenic, plus township manager Terry Carcella. Caldwell as finance officer can view and discuss the accounts.

Verna and Carcella will remain as the chief administrative officers of Ligonier Township’s non-uniformed pension plan for 2022.

Resenic also called for a brief executive session to discuss personnel before the board began its slew of annual appointments.

For 2022, the Ligonier Township Supervisors will continue to hold their regular public meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday and at 4:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Ligonier Township Municipal Complex, with a remote attendance option. The next supervisors meeting is scheduled for Jan. 11.

The township’s other boards will also meet at regularly scheduled days and times, with the planning commission at 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday and the zoning hearing board at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.