A1 A1
top story
Coast Guard names California training center wing after Arnold Palmer

A U.S. Coast Guard training center in California will now bear the name of Latrobe golf legend Arnold Palmer.

In recognition of Palmer’s service as a Coast Guard yeoman from 1951-53, four Pennsylvania legislators in 2019 led an effort to rename a wing of the Training Center Petaluma schoolhouse as the Arnold D. Palmer Professional Annex.

U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and U.S. Reps Guy Reschenthaler and John Joyce announced the designation Tuesday.

“Arnold Palmer represented the very best of Pennsylvania,” Toomey said in a news release. “From his time as an enlisted member of the Coast Guard to his accomplishments on and off the golf course, few personified generosity, kindness, and commitment to community more than Arnold Palmer.”

In 1951, Palmer attended recruit training at Cape May, New Jersey, where he was assigned the role of physical fitness and self-defense instructor, according to the release. He worked for the 9th Coast Guard District commander in Cleveland, Ohio.

According to the release, Palmer credited his successful golf career to his enlisted service, stating: “The knowledge that I gained, the maturity that I gained in the Coast Guard was unbelievable. … It matured me. It made me a better person.”

His namesake training center in Petaluma, California, will house the yeoman and storekeeper “A” School wing of the Juliet Nichols Building, where all Coast Guard yeomen conduct their foundational entry-level training.

“My dad said that the U.S. Coast Guard made (him) a better person for the world,’” said Amy Palmer Saunders, chair of the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation. “He would be touched to know that others will be given the same opportunity to learn and grow in a space named for him, and my family and I are grateful to the Pennsylvania delegation, to members of the Coast Guard, and to others who made this possible.”

Added Joyce: “It is fitting that the U.S. Coast Guard’s Arnold Palmer Professional Annex will bear his name. ... As he traveled the world, Mr. Palmer always cherished his Westmoreland County roots.”

Palmer died at age 87 in 2016. He graduated from Greater Latrobe High School in 1947, before becoming a professional golfer.

He joined the PGA Tour in 1955 and won his first title, the Canadian Open. He won four green jackets at Augusta National, the British Open in 1961 and 1962 and the U.S. Open in 1960. Palmer’s last PGA Tour win came in 1973 at the Bob Hope Classic.

To this day, his philanthropic efforts, known as “Arnie’s Army,” continue through the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Women in Orlando, Florida, and the Arnold Palmer Cancer Center at Excela Hospital in Unity Township.

top story
WCCC awards paving contract for Youngwood campus

Parking lots and roadways are set to be paved at the Westmoreland County Community College’s Youngwood campus.

The WCCC board of trustees on Wednesday tapped Pittsburgh-based Tresco Paving for about $1.84 million to seal or overlay all asphalt paved areas of the campus. Officials said the parking lots and roadways are in “terrible condition.”

“Our campus is going to look great come fall,” trustee Larry Larese said.

Trustee Gene Ciafre said 50% of the project will be funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, “Which we’re very grateful for.”

Several parking lots have drainage issues that also need to be repaired or installed. Four of the parking lots will have additional drainage installed.

“After the board’s approval tonight of the paving project, I’m very excited for that,” said Greg Rose, vice president of administrative services. “I think that’s going to add to the transformation I’ve seen across campus in my short time here.”

The project includes a 10% contingency. Officials said paving and excavating work can lead to many unknowns, and this contingency will allow the college to manage the project more effectively.

The board on Wednesday also approved not-to-exceed costs for a proposed project upgrading and replacing multiple components of the Student Achievement Center (SAC) roof.

The project would address replacing or coating several roof sections, as well as the replacement of: Three rooftop air handling units, all exhaust fans and the skylights over the new Event Center. Lightning protection will also be installed on the mass notification system.

Officials estimate the cost for these upgrades to be $2.6 million.

Formerly known as Founders Hall, the SAC recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation. It’s home to academic offices, the library offices, classrooms, a 300-seat amphitheater, college store and cafeteria.

A gymnasium, indoor running track and fitness center are also located there.

Also Wednesday, the board approved a $294,100 contract with Pittsburgh-based R&B Mechanical to replace a chiller at the Youngwood campus’ Business and Industry Center.

Officials said the replacement “will address long-standing issues of inconsistent classroom and office temperatures throughout the building.”

This project will be funded by CARES Funds.

In other business, the board approved:

  • Renewal of a 24-month full-size billboard rental in Youngwood for $37,164 to Statler Brothers Advertising beginning May 1 to April, 30, 2023;
  • An agreement with Charleston, S.C.-based Blackbaud in the amount of $10,404.73 for award management software out of three bidders;
  • Purchasing five Sharp TVs for $11,000 from Chicago-based CDWG;
  • Purchasing eight Dell laptops for $15,948.88;
  • Purchasing scrubs from Greensburg-based Scrub Shack for $12,581.50;
  • The purchase of face masks and socks for WCCC employees as a holiday gift in lieu of the college’s annual holiday party. The college paid $10,848.35 to Indiana-based Shamrock Companies, $3,665 through federal CARES Act funds.
  • A six-month $36,779 contract with Clarus Corporation of Alliance, Nebraska, for digital marketing services;
  • Accepting and adopting the single audit for the 2019-20 fiscal year;
  • Adopting a list of college course credit lab fees for the fall 2021 semester;
  • Imposing a $50 late registration fee to deter a growing number of students registering past the College in High School deadline. Officials said registration past the deadline adds costs as registration is manual and subsequent billing is manual;
  • A roughly $244,600 contract with Annville-based Candoris for a new storage area network (SAN), a specialized high-speed network that provides network access to storage and houses the college virtual environment. Officials said, “This network is the backbone of the college’s data network and is instrumental in the daily activities.” It will be paid for through federal CARES Act funding.
  • A $37,000 contract with Bradenton, Florida-based CampusWorks for consulting services to develop and coordinate RFP process for the Educational Foundation’s new fundraising management software system;
  • A new program: Special alloy welding — certificate;
  • Updating the college’s policy to require a 2.0 overall GPA to graduate. Currently, WCCC requires a 2.0 GPA in both the major and program for a student to graduate. Officials said this practice does not align with current practice at other Pennsylvania community colleges;
  • The following faculty and staff to be approved for the Status of Emeritus: Louis T. Congelio, math professor, 33 years; Pauline D. Freedberg, nursing professor, 33 years; “In Memoriam,” Janice T. Grabowski, director of admissions and registrar, 42 years; Dennis H. Pearson, associate computer technology professor, 39 years; “In Memoriam,” Martin S. St. John, assistant business management professor, 35 years; Judith A. Scheeren, associate computer technology professor, 37 years, and John Shelapinsky, associate paralegal/business/real estate professor, 31 years.

top story
County adds 100-plus coronavirus cases for second straight day

For the first time since early February, Westmoreland County has posted back-to-back days with more than 100 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases reported, according to Wednesday’s update to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard.

On Wednesday, the county recorded 103 new cases after adding 105 cases on Tuesday, marking four days in the past nine in which the county’s COVID-19 case total has increased by triple digits.

As of Wednesday’s update, there had been 28,429 coronavirus cases reported in Westmoreland County since the start of the pandemic — 19,804 confirmed cases and 8,625 probable cases. There have been 90,028 negative tests so far in the county, according to the state health department.

Since the start of 2021, there have been 9,096 new cases reported in Westmoreland County, an average of 109.59 per day this year.

Over the past seven days, the county’s case total has increased by 605, an average of 86.43 new cases per day.

The county added 559 new coronavirus cases over the third full week of March, an average of 79.85 cases per day. That daily average was up from 62.85 in the second week of March and 57.85 for the period of March 1-7. Prior to the past two weeks, average daily cases in the county had been steadily declining since mid-January.

There were no new coronavirus-related deaths reported in the county on Wednesday.

Westmoreland County’s total since the start of the pandemic remained at 699, according to the state health department, and the total in 2021 stayed at 276.

The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office at 11 p.m. on March 18 last updated its COVID-19 death total for the county, increasing the total by two, from 425 to 427.

The coroner’s total includes coronavirus deaths that occur in Westmoreland County, regardless of the deceased person’s county of residence, while the state health department’s coronavirus death figures include any person considered a resident of Westmoreland County, regardless of where their death occurred. The youngest person to die of COVID-19 in Westmoreland County was 36, according to the county coroner’s office, and the oldest was 109.

The virus-related death rate in Westmoreland County has slowed since December, which was the county’s worst month of the pandemic with 224 deaths reported (7.2 per day) and more than 10,000 new cases. The first coronavirus deaths for Westmoreland County were reported April 5, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Statewide, coronavirus cases reached 996,617 as of Wednesday’s update to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard. That case total includes 850,258 confirmed cases in the state and 146,359 probable cases. So far, 4,076,349 people in the state have tested negative for coronavirus.

According to the state health department, there have been 24,876 coronavirus-related deaths throughout the state since the start of the pandemic.

Of the state’s coronavirus deaths, 12,889 (51.81%) are associated with long term care facilities, which have been virus hotspots throughout the pandemic.

Data for long term care facilities on the state health department’s site was last updated at noon on Wednesday.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there had been 68,993 coronavirus cases among residents and 14,132 cases among staff members at 1,568 long term care facilities throughout the state as of Wednesday’s update.

In Westmoreland County, according to the state health department, 52 long-term care facilities have accounted for 2,101 positive COVID-19 cases among residents, 327 cases among staff members and 290 coronavirus deaths.

Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is continuing, and residents and staff of long term care facilities are among those being vaccinated in the first phase of the state’s vaccine rollout.

A push is underway from state officials to get through the first phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution by scheduling appointments for all interested Pennsylvanians in the most at-risk category by the end of the month.

Phase 1A of the rollout focuses on getting vaccines to those most at-risk of illness, according to the state health department, such as health care workers and Pennsylvanians living in long-term care facilities, persons age 65 and older, and those age 16-64 with high-risk conditions.

Westmoreland County added a COVID-19 vaccination information page to its county website, available at https://www.co.westmoreland.pa.us/2934/Vaccine-Info.

Excela Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carol Fox recommended those in Phase 1A still seeking to be vaccinated visit the health system’s website, www.excelahealth.org, frequently for updates regarding vaccine availability. Beginning Monday, March 29, the health system’s website is expected to include a feature allowing those in Phase 1A to register in advance for a vaccination appointment when new appointments become available, Excela spokeswoman Robin Jennings said.

The state health department’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard indicates there have been 2,918,012 partial coronavirus vaccinations administered in the state, including 92,232 in Westmoreland County as of Wednesday’s update.

The state recently passed 1.5 million “full vaccinations,” and as of Wednesday’s update, 1,592,188 people were considered full vaccinations after receiving vaccinations in the state according to the vaccine dashboard. That total includes 105,393 out-of-state residents, according to the site. Of the full vaccinations in Pennsylvania, 46,530 were administered in Westmoreland County, according to the site.

COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the state have continued to climb recently, reaching 1,577 on Monday according to the state health department, and increasing to 1,631 as of Tuesday’s update and 1,652 on Wednesday. Of coronavirus patients hospitalized Wednesday throughout the state, 351 were in adult intensive care units and 184 were on ventilators.

The moving 14-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide reached a peak of 6,105.6 on Christmas Day and had steadily declined until March 19 (1,496.9). The 14-day average for statewide coronavirus hospitalizations had increased to 1,518.2 as of Wednesday’s update.

Westmoreland County’s coronavirus hospitalization total decreased from 27 to 26 as of Tuesday’s update and dropped to 25 on Wednesday. Of COVID-19 patients in Westmoreland County hospitals on Wednesday, three were in adult intensive care units and three were on ventilators, according to the state health department. Of the 96 ventilators available in the county, according to Department of Health data, nine were in use by COVID-19 and non-COVID patients as of Wednesday’s update.

top story
DTMA approves sewer line bids for Keystone project, annual budget

The Derry Township Municipal Authority (DTMA) board took a major step forward Wednesday on a long-discussed sanitary sewer and trail project connecting Keystone State Park to the authority’s New Alexandria treatment plant, awarding bids for the construction of the sewer line and several small bridges along with pump station work.

S&E Utility was awarded the $1.75 million bid — the Harrison City-based company was the lowest of 10 bidders — for the construction of the sewer line and seven small bridges tied to the project.

J5 Construction of Eighty Four was awarded a $639,250 bid for general/mechanical work for the project’s Flowers Road pump station, while Bronder Technical Services of Prospect was awarded a $101,776 bid for electrical work at the pump station.

Consulting engineer Ed Schmitt of Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. said Wednesday’s awarded bids represent a significant moment for the project, which was first made public roughly seven years old.

“Once you award contracts, the train is moving,” he said.

The DTMA in November rejected initial project bids, citing the high cost for two large bridges tied to the project that will cross the Loyalhanna Creek.

Schmitt previously said there will be an opportunity to have both large bridges funded down the line; as part of this spring’s updated bid package, S&E Utility added the southern bridge as an alternative at a price tag of just under $1 million.

Schmitt noted that bids for the trail portion of the project likely won’t be awarded until next year.

The trail component of the project is fully funded, with funding provided through three separate state grants.

The Keystone trail has been touted as a “pivot point” in a still-developing north-central Pennsylvania trail network, as the 3.88-mile trek between Keystone State Park and New Alexandria will connect with the Legion-Keener Park trail in Latrobe, the partially constructed Little Crabtree Creek Trail that will connect with Twin Lakes Park, and the proposed Loyalhanna Lake Trail that will connect with the Bush Recreation Area in Loyalhanna.

The Keystone Park portion of the trail — called the Loyalhanna Trail — will follow gravity sewage lines proposed to be part of the sanitary sewage portion of the project.

Authority manager Carol Henderson said previously that the sanitary sewage project includes 31 customers along with tap-ins at Keystone State Park.

To help cover the sanitary sewer portion of the project, DTMA previously approved a 20-year, $1.77-million Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVEST) loan for the project. According to figures provided Wednesday, the authority will only need $1.39 million of the loan to meet the project’s budget.

In order to cover the loan, DTMA Manager Carol Henderson has proposed small monthly fees for the authority’s roughly 4,500 customers. Thanks to a $100,000 contribution from the Derry Township Supervisors, customers won’t see any added costs until the fourth year of the proposed plan, where the entire customer base would pay an extra 29 cents per month. That rate jumps to 54 cents per month in year five, then stabilizes at 61 cents per month in years six through 20. Under the proposed plan, the total cost for each DTMA customer over the loan’s 20 years is $120.

The state loan is designated for the construction of a new sewage collection system to serve residents in the Oasis and Lower Flowers Road areas and connect the state park, located in Derry Township, to the New Alexandria treatment plant. The project will also tackle health-related issues with malfunctioning on-lot systems in the area.

The existing Keystone Park sewer system is about 60 years old and has outlived its useful life, according to project engineers.

Also related to the project, the authority board previously approved a 25-year agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, which was needed to lease other portions of the trail, sewer line and a pump station. As part of that pact, DTMA will pay the Corps $10,000 for timber removal and $20,000 to West Penn Power for the Corps’ electric bill. The board also this year approved to accept a $1 million alternative transportation grant through PennDOT, which can be used to cover project-related inspections.

A project-related agreement between the DTMA and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is initially for 30 years, with an additional one-year term thereafter. Plans are to complete the project within two years, per the agreement.

The agreement consists of the DCNR paying the authority a previously agreed upon, one-time fee of $600,000, with part of that payment for fees for 25 existing tap-ins. As part of the pact, the authority has agreed to provide five additional tap-ins, though DCNR currently has no plans to add additional EDUs (Equivalent Dwelling Units).

Solicitor William McCabe in January said the DTMA-DCNR agreement aims to repair, improve and replace existing structures within the park, adding that DCNR will provide DTMA with three additional rights of way to construct future sewer lines. Also per the agreement, DCNR will tear down the park’s existing sewage treatment plant.

The authority board on Wednesday also approved a maintenance agreement tied to the trail portion of the project. Schmitt noted that the DCNR plans to handle maintenance on the upper part of the trail, while Derry Township plans to provide maintenance assistance along the lower part of the trail.

Also Wednesday, the authority board approved DTMA’s 2021-22 budget with no rate increases for customers. The spending plan includes $2.77 million in total operating revenues, $932,450 in total operating expenses and $1.15 million in total treatment charges. The board noted that they’ll have the ability to reopen the budget next month, if needed.

In other business, the authority board on Wednesday:

  • Approved 3.5% raises for non-bargaining staff and increased permanent part-time employee pay to $12 per hour;
  • Henderson noted that Longview Mobile Home Court has removed a number of homes, but the park’s owner plans to add four houses to the DTMA system. In order to move forward, she noted that a developer’s agreement will be required from the owner.

top story
EWCTC's JOC sends budget, renovation project to sending schools for vote

The Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center’s (EWCTC) Joint Operating Committee (JOC) voted on three motions Wednesday night that will be brought to the school’s sending districts — Derry Area, Greater Latrobe and Ligonier Valley — during next month’s regular board meetings.

The JOC recommended the EWCTC’s 2021-2022 budget for presentation to the sending school districts, and also voted on separate motions on the school’s significant building renovation project.

The renovation project is currently estimated not to exceed $5.85 million. The two-priority plan for building and mechanical renovations on the aging school building ranges from $4.3 million to $5.8 million. EWCTC Administrative Director Todd Weimer estimated priority one items at $1.8 million to $2.7 million and all priority two items at $2.4 to $3 million. Priority one items are directly related to the envelope of the building and the safety of students.

Wednesday’s motions involved sending resolutions of project approval to the three sending school districts and also an opportunity to allow the Eastern Westmoreland Area Vocational and Technical School Authority to assume debt for the project.

“As a (career and technology center), we can’t assume debt,” Weimer said. “So, the debt has to be assumed by the authority. The vote of the sending districts will determine whether or not the project moves forward. We’re to the point where, in April, each of the school districts will vote on the resolutions, and the outcome will be that we’re moving forward, assuming debt and starting the building project, or it’s on the shelf.”

The renovation project was initially approved last year, but temporarily shelved because of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Directors, in January, approved school administrators to develop a plan for funding the building renovation project.

The 100,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1976 and “is at the end of its useful life cycle.”

A new roof was installed in 2004 and in December 2015, the school underwent a $685,000 HVAC renovation project.

“Our JOC was in full support, as they have been all along,” Weimer said. “They’re excited about the project and they’re excited about what it means to our school. The need is there. Our kids deserve it. Their kids deserve it because they’re one in the same. I look forward to seeing what’s going to happen at the board meetings at each of the districts in April.”

Also on Wednesday, the JOC recommended its 2021-22 budget for presentation to Greater Latrobe, Derry Area and Ligonier Valley — the three sending school districts. Weimer is pleased with this year’s budget.

“Our hopes were that, under the circumstances, recognizing everything that’s going on and what the districts are going through, we didn’t want to come in this year with a budget that was a huge increase, and would put a huge burden on our districts, and we did that,” Weimer said.

Weimer added that the school included costs into the budget that are normally associated with several programs and would typically be passed onto students and families. For example, the school will purchase cosmetology kits, which include scissors, combs and more. The school is also purchasing scrubs for health occupations students.

“It’s those types of things that ease burdens on our families as we continue to work our way through this COVID crisis and the economic impacts of it,” Weimer said. “We’re excited that we’re going to be able to do that next year.”

Last year’s budget, which was a little more than $4 million, saw an increase of 1.75%. Two years ago, the budget saw an increase of 0.76%, a little less than a full percent compared to the previous year. This year’s budget is a 0.13% increase from last year’s spending plan.

“This year, we had a 0.13% increase, and it’s such a small number,” Weimer said. “We’re almost level funded. It’s a very modest increase and we’re very happy that we were able to come in so low compared to 1.75% last year and 0.76% the year before.”

The budget will be on the agenda at upcoming Derry Area, Greater Latrobe and Ligonier Valley school board meetings. The total budget is split based on student population between the three sending school district and the budget needs majority approval, 14 of the 27 board members, to pass.

Also at the meeting, the JOC recognized Samantha Elliott as the student of the month for March. Elliott, a Greater Latrobe cosmetology student, earned her state cosmetology license while completing the program. She’s also participating in the school’s cooperative education program and employed at Pamela’s Golden Touch in Ligonier.

Elliott, who plans to continue her employment and take additional classes after graduation, is a member of EWCTC’s SkillsUSA and National Technical Honor Society. She’s also a former president and treasurer of Greater Latrobe’s Interact Club.

Also on Wednesday, Weimer noted that 24 culinary students earned their ServSafe certification, which included four hours of COVID-19 training. According to the organization’s website, EWCTC was the only career and technology center in the state that received certification for training to the highest standards in safe food handling and abiding by the National Restaurant Association’s Reopening Guidelines and the FDA’s Best Practices for restaurants during the pandemic.

Two culinary arts teams from the school also participated in the annual “Soup’s On!” competition in Ligonier, recently. The teams made enough to feed 400 people, creating meals like smoked tomato bisque, smoked gouda mac n cheese, and chicken pot pie soup with a white cheddar crust.

The school will also sponsor a drive-thru spaghetti dinner on Monday, April 19. The event is a fundraiser to support the school’s senior class and National Technical Honor Society. There will be no option for walk-ins this year. To place pick-up orders, contact Heather Kaecher at 724-539-9788 ext. 309, or heather.kaecher@ewctc.net.

The JOC also approved:

  • Memorandum of understanding with the Pennsylvania State Police, effective March 28;
  • Bid for an auto frame machine as the local match to state funds received as part of the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Department of Education Cooperative Equipment Grant;
  • Pennsylvania School District Liquid Fund settlor attestation form authorizing the school to remain an established settlor for the investment of public funds;
  • Renewal of a one-year agreement for the 2021-22 school year between the school and the county behavioral health and development services program and the Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission for the Student Assistance Program at no cost to EWCTC;
  • Nicole Zavatsky to attend the 2021 virtual PASBO annual conference on four dates in March at a cost of $200 to be paid for by EWCTC.