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Food Fair planned at St. Emma Monastery

The Food Fair last fall at St. Emma Monastery was such a hit that they nearly ran out of food on the first day.

“The idea came together in three weeks, so it was a miracle that we even had it,” said Mother Mary Anne Noll, prioress of the community of Benedictine sisters in Hempfield Township. “We had no idea how many people to prepare for, so we had to scramble to make more for the next day.”

The sisters and their dedicated volunteers will be more prepared for their second outdoor Food Fair, planned for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 21-22. The freezers and storage areas are now jammed with even more soups, breads, cookies and other goodies than they had last year.

But don’t expect to eat anything while you’re there.

Because of pandemic restrictions, the homemade food is prepackaged and will be sold only as take out.

“We call it comfort food because you take it back and eat it in the comfort of your own home,” Mother Mary Anne said.

Like so many non-profits, the sisters have had to cancel or safely restructure their popular fundraisers, and retreats were put on hold during the shutdown. There are usually four major book sales at the monastery and their annual three-day flea market has always been a big money maker. Last year, their popular Christmas open house was replaced by a drive-through to see lights and an illuminated nativity scene.

The loss of those major events had a financial impact on the monastery.

“We usually made $30,000 at the flea market and another $25,000 at the dinner,” Mother Mary Anne said. “We lost that and the expenses in many ways continue.”

They are currently facing repairing a roof and the brick on the front of the chapel, so revenue from the Food Fair will be a blessing.

Recently they made the frozen pizzas that can be baked at home, and made sure that there were 20 more of each kind than they prepared last year. That includes plain cheese, pepperoni and cheese, and their popular spinach mushroom pizza.

They sold out of breads last year, so now there are even more loaves of cranberry almond, lemon poppy seed and zucchini bread.

This year there will be six kinds of cookies, including chocolate chunk, raisin oatmeal, lemon, diabetic chocolate chip, and super size white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. Fancy decorated chocolate covered pretzels are back, candied walnuts are new this year, and a volunteer baked 200 fruit turnovers.

Mason jars filled with dry mixes are available for those who want to bake their own desserts.

“They are beautifully layered, and the cowgirl cookies mix sports a festive bandana,” Mother Mary Anne said. “Everything is beautifully labeled, too, and the extra touches make the buyers feel like it’s something special that someone took the extra time and effort to do something nice instead of just plopping it out there. These little details say indeed that we are welcoming people as Christ.”

Add to those goodies three kinds of pasta sauce, pierogies, and quarts of wedding, chicken rice and vegetable soups, as well as a couple of other frozen dishes.

“We made extras of everything,” she said. “We don’t want to run out on the first day like we did last year.”

There will also be basket raffles, and chances on a large tool storage chest that’s valued at $1,200.

“Our volunteers put together red mystery bags that sell for $15 and are worth at least $30 to $50,” Mother Mary Anne said. “Then there are black mystery boxes that will be $30 each and worth $50 to $100. You won’t know what’s in them, but you’ll be getting your money’s worth.”

The “talk to a nun” booth is new this year for people, she said “who might not have had a chance to talk to a sister before.” Visitors can also pick up free materials, like rosaries, medals and prayer cards, at the evangelization table. And the Catholic book and gift shop will also be open.

“People are welcome to walk around and enjoy the grounds and to visit our shrines,” Mother Mary Anne said.

There’s a rosary path, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a life-size statue of Christ at a table (visitors are welcome to sit at one of the 12 seats), and shrines to St. Pio, Our Lady of Fatima and St. Walburga.

“I don’t normally pray about weather but I’m making an exception this time,” Mother Mary Anne said. “So many volunteers have put in so many hours of work, and people want to come to the food fair, and we want God to bless their efforts.”

St. Emma Monastery is located at 1001 Harvey St., which is Rt. 819 north of downtown Greensburg. For information, visit stemma.org. All activities will be under tents, and current CDC guidelines will be in order.

Keep America Beautiful releases largest study on litter in America

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful announced Keep America Beautiful has released the summary of its 2020 study on litter in America. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is part of the national organization’s network of 700 state and community-based affiliates.

The Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study provides a detailed understanding of the quantity, composition and sources of litter across the United States. The organization’s 2020 study is a follow up to its landmark 2009 study, which builds on a history of science-based litter research started by Keep America Beautiful in 1969.

“I am thrilled to continue the history of Keep America Beautiful as the leader in litter research in the United States, and methodology that has now been used around the world,” said Dr. Helen Lowman, Keep America Beautiful President and CEO. “This data will help inform our programs for years to come addressing both litter on the ground and the act of littering. Our many diverse partners, our 700 affiliate organizations, and the millions of volunteers activated annually will use this data to work towards our vision that everyone in America lives in a beautiful community.”

Key findings in the 2020 study include:

  • Nearly 50 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways;
  • Slightly more litter along waterways (25.9 billion) than roadways (23.7 billion);
  • 152 items of litter for each U.S. resident;
  • More than 2,000 pieces of litter per mile (both roadway and waterway);
  • 90% of people surveyed believe litter is a problem in their state;
  • 6 billion pieces more than 4 inches in size;
  • The most littered item remains cigarette butts, but this litter is down almost 70%;
  • 207.1 million personal protective equipment (PPE) items littered.

“I congratulate Keep America Beautiful for completing this litter study. Litter is a pervasive problem in Pennsylvania,” Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful president Shannon Reiter said.

“In partnership with the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, in 2020 we released the Pennsylvania Litter Research Study which identified over 500 million pieces of litter along Pennsylvania roadways, 2,018 pieces per mile. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful also released The Cost of Litter and Illegal Dumping in Pennsylvania which found that just nine municipalities spent over $65 million on litter and illegal dumping; 80% on cleanups. Since the release of these reports, the pandemic has only compounded the litter and illegal dumping problems across Pennsylvania. Businesses and communities all across the Commonwealth are reeling with the high economic and environmental costs of litter.”

Reiter said she believes that data from these reports will help inform and guide Pennsylvania stakeholders as they develop the state’s first Litter Action Plan to reduce littering in Pennsylvania.

“The Litter Action Plan, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, will guide the strategic investment in solid waste disposal and recycling infrastructure, education and outreach, and provide for a thoughtful evaluation of enforcement of existing litter and illegal dumping laws,” Reiter said. “While absolutely necessary, cleanups alone are not going to solve the problem.”

To learn more about Pennsylvania’s Litter Action Plan, visit https://dep.pa.gov/litteringactionplan.

Keep America Beautiful retained Burns & McDonnell, a leading environmental engineering firm, to conduct its 2020 Study, which has four components: Public Attitudes Survey, Visible Litter Survey, Behavioral Observations Survey, and the ongoing Financial Cost of Litter Survey.

Sponsors of the Keep America Beautiful 2020 National Litter Study include dozens of individuals, corporations, industry groups, and foundations highlighting our belief in the strength of bringing everyone to the table. The largest supporters include Altria, American Beverage Association, American Chemistry Council, Dow, Food Packaging Institute, Garver Hilyard Black Foundation, National Association of Convenience Stores, Plastics Industry Association and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco.

The full summary of the report, Litter in America is available here. The Pennsylvania Litter Research Study and The Cost of Littering in Pennsylvania are available at https://www.keeppabeautiful.org/about-us/publications/.

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DBMA gets more details on grant to replace water lines

The Derry Borough Municipal Authority (DBMA) board received more clarity Wednesday about state grant funding it will receive to replace a large amount of lead water lines within the authority’s service area.

The authority learned last month it will receive $2,896,669 though the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVEST). Derry Borough was the lone Westmoreland County recipient for the funding, which is part of a investment of $117 million for 25 drinking water, wastewater and non-point source projects across 19 counties in the state.

According to a news release, the grant funding will be used to replace “approximately 170 lead service lines, extending from the distribution main to residential property curb stops” within the borough. The project, per the release, will also “reduce the possibility of lead-contaminated water and replace aged distribution lines, aiding in the reduction of unaccounted-for water loss.”

A joint release from state Rep. Jason Silvis (R-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana) as well as state Sen. Kim Ward (R-Hempfield Township) noted that “service lines from the curb stops to customers’ homes have already been updated and no longer contain lead. In addition, about 8,500 feet of distribution lines in the project area will be replaced to eliminate breaks and leaks that could occur due to the age and condition of the lines.”

The DBMA system serves 2,435 residential customers.

Authority manager Amy Forsha said some of the improvements will be made along Owens Avenue.

“There’s going to be several lines replaced there,” she said last month of the street, which has dealt with basement flooding in recent years. “We actually found two leaking lead service lines since we applied for this grant.”

Peter Buss of Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. said Wednesday that the authority has been “designated to receive” to grant funding.

“Even though it’s a grant, it still needs to be closed on and that probably won’t be for another month or two,” he added.

Forsha said a meeting is planned next week with PennVEST to go over the grant closing process.

“We weren’t sure as to when we wanted to go out to bid due to project materials being hard to find and project costs being higher right now,” she said, adding that she believes the authority has until the end of 2022 to use the funding. “We have some time.”

Authority board member Sara Cowan will provide Forsha with a list of areas within the borough’s planned summer paving project that will also receive water line upgrades. Some authority board members expressed a desire to target those areas during the early stages of the line replacement project.

Forsha noted that the work includes both service lines and service mains.

“We could certainly designate that area to be done first,” Buss said. “We can direct the contractor where he starts. I don’t know what your paving schedule is, but realistically, we’re four months out from starting service line replacement.”

Authority vice chairman Al Checca expressed concerns that the line project could potentially delay the borough’s paving project.

“Hopefully, we’ll get it to coincide with one another,” authority Solicitor Sam Dalfonso said.

In the other business at Wednesday’s meeting:

Forsha said the authority’s annual Drinking Water Quality Report is available online at http://www.derrywater.com/waterqualityreport.php

  • and copies are also available at the authority office.
  • Forsha said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will conduct a filter plant evaluation at the authority facility May 25-26. The last evaluation hasn’t occurred in about a decade, she noted, and is conducted to measure turbidity in different parts of the authority system.
  • The authority board approved a resolution recognizing former DBMA manager and board president Rich Thomas’ 30 years of service.
  • Forsha said die testing continues in the borough’s second ward.
  • Forsha said sludge press building electrical work will begin in the “next week or two,” and she said work on the building will likely start in early June. Additionally, she noted that CCTV televising work is slated to begin next month.

Crews on Tuesday afternoon made way for a future GetGo location along Route 30 by demolishing the former Arnold Palmers Motors building in Unity Township. The planned GetGo project calls for a 6,200-square-foot gas station/convenience store with seven dispenser aisles and a total of 14 fueling stations. A small dining area, car wash and alcohol sales are also planned features of the proposed store. Arnold Palmer Motors closed its doors over three years ago after more than 35 years in business. The existing GetGo — located at nearby Mountain Laurel Plaza for more than a decade — will close and the land will be reutilized for other developments in the future.

Latrobe Kinder-Schull’s infant class presented local police departments with “Thank You” bags in honor of National Police Week from May 9-15. Displaying some of the cards included in the bags are Melanie Smail, Madeleine Freeman, Kadence Henry, Kelsey Clark, Mia Brody, Lindsey Smail and Henry Floyd. The school collected treats for each officer in the Derry, Latrobe, Ligonier and Blairsville departments to show its appreciation. Lindsey Smail organized the project in honor of her late brother, Officer Joshua Smail (Derry), who passed away on April 5, 2019.

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UTMA hears plans for two residential developments, adding EDUs

Two planned residential developments in Unity Township were discussed during the Unity Township Municipal Authority’s (UTMA) regular meeting Wednesday.

Kevin Brett of authority engineer Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering Inc. (LSSE) presented a developer’s conceptual plans to add 22 Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) near Fred Rogers Drive at its intersection with Route 30.

The proposed development — dubbed “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” — would extend sewer line to several existing homes, with plans to eventually construct additional housing at the aforementioned location.

“It’s a neat project,” Brett said. “Sewer’s the first step.”

Brett and UTMA manager Doug Pike met with a representative of the Fred Rogers estate — which owns acreage in the area of the proposed development. Brett said developers initially wanted to install individual grinder pumps at each home, but LSSE recommends using gravity flows to a single pump station, instead.

“It just feels like a better solution for them,” Brett said, adding that it would be the cheaper option, as well. Installing more than 20 individual grinder pumps could also face Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) pushback, Brett said.

UTMA on Wednesday also approved a developer’s agreement with Jim Thomas Construction Co. for a project adding 115 equivalent dwelling units (EDU) to a planned housing development near the intersection of Frye Farm and Beatty County roads.

The development, which will bring more than 100 patio homes to Unity Township, still requires planning commission and supervisors’ approval.

In other business, regarding the Donohoe Road sewer line extension project, UTMA board secretary Mike O’Barto inquired about cost estimates to extend service to L&S Machine Co.

“I would like to ask the authority to meet with the township supervisors to see if we could actually get some of the money that’s going to be coming from the federal government which can be used for water line extensions and also sewage extensions,” said O’Barto, a township supervisor.

The first phase of the project included a 4,000-foot sewer line extension providing service to two businesses — Product Evaluation Systems and JMS Fabricated Systems — along Donohoe Road, as well as some homes along nearby Buffenmeyer Road.

The roughly $500,000 project received a boost from the state’s Commonwealth Financing Authority in September 2018, when it was awarded $424,996 in grant funding, which UTMA received reimbursement earlier this month.

Brett estimated phase two costs around $240,000, with UTMA seeking another $100,000 in grant funding. O’Barto said he would like to find out L&S’s plans to hire new employees.

“I think this is a project that would work because of the amount of people that it could possibly employ in these couple of businesses,” he said. “I think it’s something that we could actually wrap our arms around.”

Also on Wednesday, the UTMA board approved:

  • A memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hillside Estates;
  • A developer’s agreement with Airport Auto Outlet along Route 981 to fill over existing sewer line;
  • Terminating UTMA’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act extension and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for mask wearing.
  • Hiring one summer intern at a rate of $9.25 per hour.

Woman caught with loaded handgun at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

A Greensburg woman was prevented from carrying a loaded handgun onto her flight Tuesday at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials announced.

The TSA officers caught the Greensburg resident with a loaded .380 caliber handgun in her purse when she entered the security checkpoint.

It was the third gun caught by TSA officers at the airport’s checkpoint so far this year, matching the highest single-year figure for firearms caught at the checkpoint in the past five years.

TSA officers caught three guns at the checkpoint in 2019, two each year in 2017 and 2018, and found one firearm at the checkpoint in 2020.

TSA officials notified the Westmoreland County Park Police, who responded to the checkpoint and questioned the woman involved in Tuesday’s incident. She now faces a federal financial penalty for bringing a loaded gun to a security checkpoint.

When an individual shows up at a checkpoint with a firearm, the checkpoint lane comes to a standstill until the police resolve the incident, TSA officials noted. Guns at checkpoints can delay travelers from getting to their gates.

TSA reserves the right to issue a civil penalty to travelers who have guns and gun parts with them at a checkpoint. Civil penalties for bringing a handgun into a checkpoint can stretch into thousands of dollars, depending on mitigating circumstances. This applies to travelers with or without concealed gun carry permits because even though an individual may have a concealed carry permit, it does not allow for a firearm to be carried onto an airplane. The complete list of civil penalties is posted online. If a traveler with a gun is a member of TSA PreCheck, that individual will lose their TSA PreCheck privileges.

Passengers are permitted to travel with firearms in checked baggage if they are properly packaged and declared at their airline ticket counter to be transported in the belly of the plane. Guns are absolutely not permitted to be carried onto planes. Checked firearms must be unloaded, packed in a hard-sided case, locked, and packed separately from ammunition. TSA has details on how to properly travel with a firearm posted on its website. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality and travelers should check into firearm laws before they decide to travel with their guns. Travelers should also contact their airline as they may have additional requirements for traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Nationwide, TSA officers detected 3,257 firearms on passengers or their carry-on bags at checkpoints last year, although the total number of passengers screened at airport checkpoints across the country fell by 500 million compared to 2019 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Twice as many firearms per million passengers screened were detected at checkpoints in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, TSA caught approximately 10 firearms per million passengers as compared to about five firearms per million passengers in 2019. Of the guns caught by TSA in 2020, about 83% were loaded.