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Latrobe council approves plans for auto parts store, affordable housing

A pair of new development plans were approved at Latrobe City Council’s meeting on Monday, which are set to bring an O’Reilly Auto Parts store and nine new multi-family homes into town.

The 7,200-square-foot auto parts store is set to replace the former site of the shuttered Laurel Education Center at 17 Lloyd Ave., which was sold by Westmoreland County Community College to Scottsdale, Arizona-based SimonCRE in January for $410,000.

Project engineer Ryan Stroup of Warrendale-based MDM Surveyors and Engineer said plans call for 27 parking spaces, with two rows of parking each along Lloyd Avenue and behind the store. He said access will be available from Chambers Street, with two proposed driveways in the front and rear of the store.

Stroup said grading across the site was a main challenge for developers, as there is a 5-foot drop between Chambers Street and an alley opposite to it.

“In order to help remedy that, we are proposing to the mill and overlay the alley to kind of bring that up a little bit and help with those challenges,” he said, “to allow for better flow in and out of the site.”

Stroup said O’Reilly Auto Parts stores “typically have 30 parking stalls to run this type of building. We wouldn’t want to reduce that more than it already is… But if we need to make some changes, we are happy to look into it.”

Peter Krahenbuhl of developer SimonCRE said O’Reilly stores require parking in the front of the building. He said O’Reilly also requires that truck deliveries can take place in the alley.

He added that O’Reilly stores typically make deliveries once a week.

The store will employ nine to 12 people, Stroup estimated. Construction is slated to begin as early as April depending on weather, Krahenbuhl added.

“We will be reducing the amount of impervious surface in the area,” Stroup said, adding that plans show an additional 44 feet of lawn area in the rear of the store. “Also, along the frontage on Lloyd Avenue, that is going to be proposed to be a landscaped area. Ultimately, it’s a less impervious area than what is currently on the site.”

Mayor Rosie Wolford said, “That is the gateway to the downtown, so I just was hoping there would be something green there.”

Council on Monday also approved a land development agreement for nonprofit Homes Build Hope to build nine low-income, multi-family residential homes along Mary Street.

In June 2017, developers presented original plans to council that called for about double the number of units that were approved on Monday. However, Kristin Zaccaria, Homes Build Hope executive director, said, “We did downsize the project from 18 units to nine and added more green space in.”

The homes that will be constructed through this project will be similar to the homes that were built by Homes Build Hope on Lloyd Avenue back in 2005.

About 13 dilapidated structures were demolished to make room for three triplexes, with three units per building, Zaccaria said.

The project was funded by Westmoreland County HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME) funds under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

She estimated the total costs to complete this project are around $2.1 million.

She said the dilapidated homes were acquired and demolished through collaboration with the Westmoreland County Land Bank and Redevelopment Authority.

She added that the nonprofit twice applied for tax credits through Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency but were unsuccessful, so “we made the scope of the project smaller by about half.”

“We had to go back to council because we redesigned the layout of the project,” she told the Bulletin. “...We added some more green space in there just to give it a more open feel, and less concentrated.”

Zaccaria said Export-based Guardian Construction is contracted to do a design-build for this project.

“This is really exciting,” Wolford told Homes Build Hope representatives at Monday’s meeting. “Thank you so much for what you guys do. You’ve really transformed that corridor into our downtown.”

In other business, council tentatively plans for trick-or-treating to take place in Latrobe from 4 to 6 p.m. on Halloween, Oct. 31. Officials noted the parade will likely not take place.

Also at the meeting, council heard from resident Joan Engelhardt who said “dog-walkers are in Legion-Keener Park… every night. There’s dozens of them... Is there anything ever going to be done by this?”

Council has previously noted that no pets are permitted at Legion-Keener, although they are allowed along Creekside Park, Lincoln Avenue Trails or downtown, where pet waste stations are available.

Wolford instructed residents to call 911 to report these incidents in order for police to be dispatched, accordingly.

City Manager Michael Gray said Chief John Sleasman and Latrobe Police Department officers “know that they can enforce (these) actions under chapter 219” of the city’s code that prohibits pets at Legion-Keener.

Council also tabled a resolution to approve an agreement with Mutual Aid to provide custodial blood draws. Solicitor John Greiner said an agreement has not yet been finalized and more information will be provided to council at its next agenda meeting.

Council also approved a resolution for an agreement to exonerate taxes for a mobile home at 32 East Monroe St.

Greiner said the city filed for a code violation against both the owner of the lot and mobile home.

“The owner of the mobile home has agreed to remove the (home),” Greiner said. “It’s in poor condition; It’s uninhabitable.”

Greiner explained that an agreement between the city, Westmoreland County and Greater Latrobe School district must be finalized so that once the mobile home is removed, then the taxes will be exonerated.

“If they do not agree, (the owner) does not have clearance to remove the mobile home,” he said.

The exoneration will cost the city about $1,200.

Council member Eric Bartels said, “We don’t want this to be a precedent.” Added Greiner: “I’ll be happy to express that sentiment to anyone that approaches me about future exoneration requests.”

Council also approved on Monday:

  • An amendment to remove the unnecessary references to the dissolved Latrobe Parking Authority from the city’s code;
  • Approving a resolution to add regular, unreserved permit parking passes at the top level of the city’s parking garage for a $15 monthly fee;
  • A resolution approving a contract with Scenic Pittsburgh to act as a consultant for a zoning ordinance analysis;
  • Appointing Ed Kubicek to the city’s planning commission and Jim Burkey to zoning hearing board for a terms expiring Jan. 31, 2021;
  • A resolution approving cooperation agreement with Westmoreland County for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that went into effect in 2002.

Covid19
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LV school board sets sports attendance policy, OKs livestreaming deal

While state coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines are severely limiting the number of people permitted to be in attendance for Ligonier Valley School District athletic events, the district’s school board on Monday approved an agreement for equipment to livestream those sporting events online.

The board approved athletic spectator guidelines that outline the number of spectators — if any — that will be permitted at fall sporting events, how tickets will be distributed and the rules spectators will be required to follow at events.

According to the guidelines, all athletic events must adhere to limitations on social gatherings set forth in Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan for phased reopening, which restricts indoor gatherings to 25 people or fewer and outdoor events to no more than 250 people. While there is no longer a restriction barring spectators from athletic events, the maximum capacity limits remain in place.

Superintendent Dr. Christine Oldham noted that athletes and coaches count toward the maximum capacity limits and said for indoor sports like girls’ volleyball, reserve players who would normally be seated on the bench now sometimes can’t even be inside the gymnasium where the match is being played. Because of the restrictions on indoor gatherings, spectators are not permitted to attend volleyball games or any other indoor events limited to 25 people.

Visiting team spectators are not permitted to attend any LVSD sporting events, according to the guidelines.

For boys’ and girls’ soccer and junior high football, each athlete will be given two tickets per game. The gates at Weller Field will open 30 minutes prior to game time, and all spectators will undergo temperature screenings before entering.

For varsity football, each football player, band member and cheerleader will be given only one ticket to ensure the maximum capacity of 250 isn’t exceeded. The gates at Weller Field will open at 6 p.m. for the Rams’ two home football games — Oct. 2 against Steel Valley and Oct. 23 against Shady Side Academy — and all spectators will undergo temperature screenings before entering. Additionally, no one will be permitted to stand along the Weller Field fence line or on the practice field, as both areas are LVSD property.

The board approved waiving ticket fees for all fall sports.

District parent Jude Grzywinski, who was also representing the football booster organization, asked the board to consider potential alternatives that would allow for a greater number of spectators at varsity football games, especially since there are only two events.

Boys’ and girls’ soccer each have six or more home games at Weller Field, he noted, and athletes in those sports are awarded two tickets apiece.

Grzywinski suggested the district could have the marching band perform before the home football games so more band spectators could attend, then clear out Weller Field to allow football-only spectators inside, or the band and cheerleaders could perform somewhere other than Weller Field.

He noted that between football, the band and cheerleaders, there are only about a dozen seniors, and suggested that seniors should be awarded more than one ticket.

Those who aren’t able to attend the games have the option to watch live online at www.nfhsnetwork.com — for a price. The livestreaming service is subscription-based, with monthly subscriptions set at $10.99 and an annual pass set at $69.99.

The school board on Monday approved an agreement with the NFHS Network to supply two Pixellot systems — one each at the high school gymnasium and Weller Field — for a one-time installation fee of $2,500.

The automated video systems can follow the game action using built-in artificial intelligence, athletic director Wesley Siko said, and livestream the video to the NFHS Network site to be viewed by subscribers.

During her report to the board, Oldham said in the district’s return to school, 217 learners opted for the full-time remote learning option rather than the hybrid model involving two days per week of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning. There were 19.5 new home school students in the district for the 2020-21 school year, Oldham said, and seven students in cyber charter schools — a net decrease of seven from a year ago. There were also three students the district has not been able to make contact with regarding their chosen option for education for the 2020-21 school year.

The board heard from the parent of a kindergartener urging the district to consider allowing students the option of returning to in-person instruction five days a week. She said the online learning option is especially difficult for younger children who can have a hard time following along and stay on task unless a parent or caregiver is actively assisting them throughout the online lessons. For parents who work outside the home or who have multiple children, she said, it’s difficult making sure students are learning during the days they aren’t physically attending school. She also expressed concern that parents are often advised to limit screen time for young children, but remote learning requires them to be on computers or tablets for extended periods of time.

In other business, the school board approved:

  • The 2020-21 contract with Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7 concerning IDEA Flow-Thru Funds and IDEA Section 619 Pass-Through Funds;
  • Retroactive approval of an agreement with AT&T Corp. for Mobile Select 10GB play for tablet/MiFi at a cost of $19 per month and AccessMyLan from AT&T for $6.50 per month;
  • The 2020-21 nursing services memorandum of understanding with Valley School of Ligonier;
  • A service agreement with Highlands Hospital Center for Autism to furnish Licensed Private Academic School Services for the 2020-21 school year at a tuition rate of $61,200;
  • Service agreements with Alternative Community Resource Program, Inc. for the 2020-21 school year;
  • The Community Guidance Center’s Alpha program daily rate of $30 per day and $15 per half day, effective Sept. 1;
  • A cooperative agreement with St. Francis University for the College in High School Program for the 2020-21 school year;
  • The affiliation agreement with Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for an academic experience site for the university’s students in the area of Post-Master’s Certificate for Principalship;
  • Retroactively accepting the resignations of Amy Krieger, four-hour cook at Laurel Valley Elementary (LVE), effective Aug. 14; Devyn Langevian, four-hour cook at Ligonier Valley High School (LVHS), effective Aug. 12; Holly Miller, four-hour cook at LVHS, effective Aug. 13; and Suzanne Pahach, three-hour cook at LVE, effective Aug. 31;
  • The transfer of Jennifer Kober to a four-hour cook position at LVE, effective Aug. 31;
  • Retroactive approval of the hiring of the following substitutes for the 2020-21 school year, pending required paperwork: Lauren DePalma, elementary; Daeva Simmons, preK-4, special education; Eileen Plummer and Mamie Garver, emergency teachers; and Bridgette Dennehy, Christy Spirk and Janice Lisbon, cooks;
  • Retroactive approval of a memorandum of understanding with Ligonier Valley Educational Support Professionals regarding amendments to hours of work for aides and paraprofessionals beginning Aug. 31;
  • Hiring Bridgette Denney as a four-hour cook at LVHS and Cristy Spirk as a three-hour cook at Ligonier Valley Middle School (LVMS), both at an hourly rate of $10.55, effective Sept. 15;
  • Hiring Leigh Deist as a 12-month maintenance employee at an hourly rate of $23.33 with an effective date to be determined pending required paperwork;
  • Retroactive approval for home schooled learners Mark Jablunovsky and John Jablunovsky to participate in LVMS extracurricular activities for the 2020-21 school year at a participation rate of $50 each;
  • Accepting the resignations of Dee Ambrose Stahl as freshman class advisor and Ashley Burkhardt as assistant junior high girls’ basketball coach for the 2020-21 school year;
  • Appointment of the following supplemental positions for the 2020-21 school year, pending required paperwork: Shawn Smith, assistant boys’ varsity basketball coach, $4,150; Ryan Podlucky, assistant junior high girls’ basketball coach, $2,969; Dylan Jackman, head boys’ track and field coach, $4,563; Don Smith, assistant boys’ track and field coach, $3,041.

Covid19
AP
Judge: Pennsylvania's pandemic restrictions unconstitutional

Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic restrictions that required people to stay at home, placed size limits on gatherings and ordered “non-life-sustaining” businesses to shut down are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday.

The Wolf administration said it will appeal.

U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, sided with plaintiffs that included hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, a farmer’s market vendor, a horse trainer and several Republican officeholders in their lawsuit against Wolf, a Democrat, and his health secretary.

The Wolf administration’s pandemic policies have been overreaching and arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights, Stickman wrote in his ruling.

The governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency. But even in an emergency, the authority of government is not unfettered,” Stickman wrote. “The Constitution cannot accept the concept of a ‘new normal’ where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency mitigation measures.”

The ruling means that current restrictions, including ones that limit the size of indoor and outdoor gatherings, can’t be enforced, according to attorney Thomas W. King III, who represented the plaintiffs. The state has been enforcing a gathering limit of more than 25 people for events held indoors and more than 250 people for those held outside.

“It’s really 100% in our favor. The court found in all respects that the orders issued by the governor and the secretary of health were unconstitutional. What it means is they can’t do it again, and they should not have done it in the past,” King said.

Wolf’s spokesperson, Lyndsay Kensinger, said the administration will seek delayed enforcement of the ruling while it appeals.

“The actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save lives in the absence of federal action. This decision is especially worrying as Pennsylvania and the rest of the country are likely to face a challenging time with the possible resurgence of COVID-19 and the flu in the fall and winter,” Kensinger said in a written statement.

At a news conference Monday, the state health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, pleaded with Pennsylvania residents to maintain social distancing and avoid crowds despite the ruling. She said of the ruling that “anything that limits our ability and the number of tools we have is a challenge to public health.”

Courts had consistently rejected challenges to Wolf’s power to order businesses to close during the pandemic, and many other governors, Republican and Democrat, undertook similar measures as the virus spread across the country.

Wolf had eased many of the restrictions the plaintiffs objected to in their lawsuit — allowing businesses to reopen and canceling a statewide stay-at-home order — but the judge’s ruling noted that the administration had merely suspended those measures and could reimpose them at will.

While reopening its economy, Pennsylvania limited occupancy to 75% capacity at most businesses and 50% at theaters, gyms, salons and malls. It imposed even more restrictive measures on bars and restaurants, which the Wolf administration blamed for a summer spike in virus cases.

The judge said the plaintiffs did not challenge Wolf’s occupancy limits, and his ruling does not impact those orders. Nor did the lawsuit challenge the Wolf administration’s order requiring people to wear masks in public.

Another federal judge, U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick, recently dismissed parts of a separate lawsuit that challenged Wolf’s business shutdown. “We are skeptical of claims seeking to challenge emergency government action taken to combat a once-in-a-century global health crisis,” wrote Surrick, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Pennsylvania has reported that more than 145,000 people statewide have contracted the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 7,800 people have died.


Local
Local municipal authority members recognized for years of service

Richard K. Thomas was recently recognized for his 30 years of service with the Derry Borough Municipal Authority (DBMA).

Each year, the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association (PMAA) recognizes authority members who have dedicated many years of service to their authorities and communities.

Thomas received the Extended Service Award, given to those who have served 30 to 40 years or more.

Guy J. Hutchinson was also recognized for his 32 years with the Greater Greensburg Sewage Authority. Anthony J. Bione received the Sahli Service Award for serving 22 years with the Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority.

The Sahli Service Award is awarded to those who have served 20 years or more, while the J.E. “Ted” Kuhn Award goes to those who have served 50 years or more.

These awards are given in an effort to promote interest in good authority administration and operation and to recognize faithful and effective service by authority officials.

“We recognize the long tenured and invaluable service of a number of municipal authority award recipients,” said Douglas Bilheimer, PMAA executive director. “Many authorities are fortunate to have the benefit of their long-tenured experience, knowledge and dedication.”

For more than 78 years, PMAA has been the primary voice of community-based services representing the interests of more than 2,600 municipal authorities in Pennsylvania.

“The common thread among these exemplary individuals is their tireless work and unwavering commitment to the daily success, year in and year out, of authority service delivery,” Bilheimer said. “These men and women are all selflessly dedicated to delivering the essential services to the citizens of their community and we thank them wholeheartedly for that service.”

PMAA’s mission is to assist municipal authorities in providing services that protect and enhance the environment and promote the economic vitality and general welfare of the commonwealth and its citizens.


Bob Hantz gives his dog Tuco a boost into the Rogers-McFeely Memorial Swimming Pool in Latrobe on Saturday, Sept. 12, for Latrobe-GLSD Parks & Recreation's Pooches in the Pool event.


Local
GLPIEF assists with classroom supplies, playground equipment

The Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation (GLPIEF) recently presented donations of back-to-school classroom supplies and playground equipment to support the health and safety of Greater Latrobe School District elementary students during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The foundation donated bottled water and earbud headphones for students in each elementary classroom — 88 classrooms in all — at Mountain View, Baggaley and Latrobe elementary schools, as well as playground equipment. Each classroom received jump ropes, various sports balls and a bucket of sidewalk chalk.

The foundation also donated four four hockey/soccer nets and hockey sticks to each school.

The additional recess supplies will limit the need for cleaning throughout the day and give students additional outdoor activities during their recess periods.

The donations were made possible by generous recent donations to the Wildcat Emergency Fund. GLPIEF noted that Latrobe-GLSD Parks & Recreatrion director Craig Shevchik assisted in securing the recess equipment.

The GLPIEF remains committed to supporting the unique needs of the Greater Latrobe School District as the 2020-2021 school year continues. To learn more about GLPIEF, visit glpief.org or email office@glpief.org.


Covid19
Bulletin home delivery to include free copy of Ligonier Echo each week

The Latrobe Bulletin‘s sister paper, the Ligonier Echo, recently announced that weekly publication of the paper has resumed, after a long absence brought on by the hardships of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Echo will now be published on Tuesday each week instead of Thursday, as it was previously, and as an added bonus — thanks to a continued partnership between the Bulletin and the Echo — a free copy of the Echo will be provided every Tuesday to Bulletin home delivery subscribers, starting today.

The Bulletin thanks its readers for their continued support of local journalism.