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New Alex council remembers late Mayor Dottie Bacher

New Alexandria Borough Council held a moment of silence at the start of Wednesday’s meeting to remember beloved Mayor Dottie Bacher, who passed away Friday.

“I think it would be a sign of respect for her and everything she’s done for the borough, not only as mayor, but in all the years she has been here,” said council president Tim Ruane.

Bacher, a longtime New Alexandria resident, was the borough’s mayor for more than 11 years. Last month, council dedicated Dorothea A. “Dottie” Bacher Playground at the corner of School and Church streets.

Ruane said Bacher got to see her namesake playground before she died when her husband Randy drove her to see it. “She loved that,” Ruane said.

The borough has 30 days to fill the mayoral vacancy. New Alexandria residents who have lived in the borough for at least one year and who are registered voters can submit a letter of interest to the borough office for the open position.

Until then, Ruane will fulfill the mayor’s duties while continuing to serve as council president. Solicitor Brian Kavanaugh advised against current council members resigning to fill the position.

Bacher served as borough mayor since 2009. She was re-elected for a four-year term in 2017, running as a Democrat. Her term was set to expire in January 2022.

In other business, council member Jennifer Graham discussed a potential partnership between the New Alexandria and Bradenville volunteer fire departments.

Graham attended an April 28 meeting as a borough representative between members of both departments, Derry Township supervisors, and an attorney who specializes in these types of consolidations.

“New Alex handles quite a few calls for Bradenville and Derry because of where their station is located and where ours is and where the cutoff lines are,” Graham said. “But (Bradenville) gets significantly more funding because of the size.”

Graham said the partnership would make administrative work easier for both departments working under one umbrella. She added that both departments are working to make this partnership “work for everybody.”

“The chiefs are really trying to make this work for everybody for the future of the departments, as well, to maybe get more younger people involved and make it more appealing,” Graham said.

Added the public works department’s Andy Kolano: “What it comes down to is it’s either going to happen now or it’s going to happen later. … We can either go by the wayside or we can do it now and be ahead of the curve. I’d rather do it now under our terms than do it later under somebody else’s terms.”

One reason for the discussed merger is so that funding — which is based on area covered — from the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner is spread more evenly between the two departments. Bradenville VFD is responsible for covering 105 square miles of Derry Township, while New Alexandria covers a significantly smaller area.

“It could potentially be much more financially beneficial for us to do this,” Graham said. “But at the same token, New Alex doesn’t want to lose its autonomy and its place in the community and how important it is in and of itself.”

Graham said the two departments will meet in the near future to disclose financial information related to the proposed partnership.

In March, the Youngstown and Whitney-Hostetter volunteer fire departments merged into one station: The Youngstown-Whitney Volunteer Fire Department.

In other business, Ruane announced that the borough received its new street signs.

“We have 48 signs in town and four different styles … ranging from 1953 until 1987,” he said. “What this does is it ties all the streets together.”

The blue reflective street signs — which meet PennDOT specs — feature the borough’s seal. Ruane said the new signs will help residents distinguish which streets are located within the borough.

Also on Wednesday, council asked residents to not blow grass clippings onto roadways since it causes storm drains to clog.

“That is a violation, because it is dangerous,” Graham said.

Council member Bethany Deglau said Kolano recently cleaned the Gray Wing Park boat launch for the summer, which “looked really nice for the sojourn.”

Council also discussed the possibility of renting facilities at Gray Wing Park — which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to residents who are interested in having events there.

Ruane proposed that the borough could charge a deposit for residents to rent the pavilion and to use power. However, Graham said, “I don’t know if we should open up power unless it’s a borough function,” and she raised concerns about a lack of public restrooms.

Kavanaugh said the borough would need to pass an ordinance which lays out guidelines, rules and regulations for renting out the facility.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting:

  • Council approved renewing the borough’s insurance policy with Varine-Slavin.
  • Deglau said she would organize the borough’s community clean up even, with a tentative date set for June 19.
  • Graham said the borough needs to advertise for the vacant position of emergency management director.
  • Council approved to spend $2,500 for several new benches and two picnic tables at the Community Center.
  • The borough is set to resurface the tennis and basketball courts outside the Community Center.
  • Council is waiting to receive more quotes from contractors before it considers replacing the Community Center and playground sidewalks.

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Two challengers seeking Latrobe mayor bid

Two challengers are vying for Latrobe mayor in the May 18 primary election.

Eric Bartels is running as a Republican, while Sandra McCune is the Democratic candidate. Current Mayor Rosie Wolford is not seeking a third term.

Bartels is a current five-year city council member, where he currently serves as deputy mayor.

“Mayor Wolford has done well for Latrobe and it is (my) hope to continue the progress she has made to keep Latrobe a welcoming city that families will enjoy living in and in which businesses will be able to successfully operate,” he said of his plans.

Bartels has lived in Latrobe for 13 years with his wife, Melissa, a 1992 graduate of Greater Latrobe Senior High School. She currently works at Latrobe Elementary School.

Bartels has two sons, Nolan, a ninth-grader, and Simon, a seventh-grader, who both attend Greater Latrobe schools.

Barters grew up in Hobart, Indiana — part of the Chicago metropolitan area. He graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

A social studies teacher at Norwin High School, Bartels also teaches as an adjunct professor at St. Vincent College. He is a member of Greensburg Alliance Church.

Bartels is currently serving in his second term as a city council member, first elected in 2015.

He said that council has “worked well together, including with (City Manager) Michael Gray and the various department heads who are passionate about keeping the ‘Neighborhood’ beautiful and living up to its accolades such as one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the U.S.”

During his time so far on council, Bartels has served on the public works and student showcase committees, as well as the Adams Memorial Library board.

McCune did not submit a campaign announcement to the Bulletin.

Wolford has served eight years as mayor, and 10 additional years on council.

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Challengers, incumbents dot crowded Derry Area School Board race

Several longtime incumbents on the Derry Area School Board are facing a slew of challengers in the May 18 primary election.

Current board members David Krinock, Gerald Hughes and Mark Maloy each cross-filed and are vying for new four-year terms. Also running for four open board seats include challengers Joshua Campbell, Ricardo Campbell, Alan Davis, Nancy Findish, Steve Frye, Ralph E. Neiman III and Daniel Schall. All but Ricardo Campbell and Davis, who are on the Republican ticket, cross-filed.

Krinock, a current four-term board member, has served nine years as president and two as vice president.

He touted the board and district’s many accomplishments during his time as a school director, also noting that Derry Area’s graduation rate is consistently in the high 90s.

He said consistent leadership and experience is needed on a school board, saying that “school districts don’t need term limits. They need consistent strong leadership. Along with that, they let their leaders lead.”

Maloy has served on the school board for eight years, including as vice president for two years. He has also served on the building and grounds committee, athletic committee and the Trojan Spear committee.

Maloy and his wife Amy Lynn have three children, who are all Derry Area graduates.

A 1980 Derry Area graduate, Maloy has 35 years of experience in education. He is currently employed as a secondary guidance counselor with the Butler Area School District, where his wife also serves as a kindergarten teacher.

Maloy said, as a board member, he will work diligently to “assist our team” with attempting to meet the learning needs of the student population, while maintaining a healthy fiscal responsibility for taxpayers. “I have been consistent in voting no for raising taxes in our community,” he added.

Hughes has served three years on the school board, two as chairman, and on the Joint Operating Committee (JOC) for the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (EWCTC), including three years as co-chairman. He has also served on the policy committee, points committee and the Trojan Spear committee.

Hughes has 27 years of teaching experience. He received a Bachelor of Science in agricultural education from Penn State University and completed a graduate program at the University of Maryland in agronomy soil science.

Hughes lives on a family farm in Derry that has been in the family for more than 200 years. His father was a Derry Area school agriculture teacher for more than 30 years.

He and his wife of 27 years have four children attending Derry Area, one in high school, one in middle school and two in elementary school.

“I had been steadfast and unfaltering in keeping students in the school this year during the pandemic,” he said. “I plan on continuing to support the elective programs to keep them open and available at the school.” Hughes said he will make sure the school continues to be a safe environment for the students while keeping their best interests in mind.

Neiman, who has lived in the Derry Area most of his life, is a retired union laborer. Neiman is also a veteran, serving in the Army Reserves for 17 years. He was a firefighter for the now-defunct Eastern Derry Volunteer Fire Department in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“I want to put the focus back where it belongs — on our kids. I want to make sure that every student receives the best education that they can get, and the best opportunity that we can provide them to succeed,” Neiman said. “I know we are working with limited resources, but our kids deserve the best experience that we can give them, and our teachers deserve to best compensation that we can afford.”

A member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Neiman has served his parish in various capacities. He has been married to his wife Rosanne for 15 years, and enjoys riding his Harley-Davidson in his free time.

“I know that ‘change’ can be a scary word, especially in Derry, but it’s time for a change. We can’t keep raising taxes year after year while our people keep moving away,” Neiman said. “It is time for different ideas, different attitudes and different people on the Derry Area School Board.”

Findish and her husband have been homeowners and taxpayers living in Derry Township for about 25 years, and raised two sons that attended the district from kindergarten through graduation.

A Greater Latrobe Senior High School graduate, she attended Westmoreland County Community College, where she studied accounting and business. Findish said she is employed by a local small business in accounting and payroom. She was a former substitute clerical aide/PCA staff member from 2008-14, serving in the Derry Area School District.

If elected to the school board, Findish feels her “strong accounting and business skills could be helpful when reviewing budget/program details and I would work to make sure all kids are represented.”

None of the other candidates submitted election announcements to the Bulletin.

Simba and Nala are reminding residents to mark their calendars as the Lloydsville Volunteer Fire Department is holding its 2021 rabies clinic 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at its Dickens Street station. Shots are $10 for both dogs and cats. Dr. Constance Donovan of Ligonier will be administering the doses. Participants are asked to be respectful and social distance. Dogs are to be on a leash and cats in a carrier.

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Three seats up for grabs on Latrobe City Council

Only one candidate is on the ballot for three Latrobe City Council seats, but two residents are running as write-ins.

Jim Kelley is seeking re-election on the Democratic ticket, while Bridget DiVittis and Ann M. Amatucci said they are running as write-in candidates.

Kelley was elected to council in 2017 and is seeking another four-year term. He resides in Latrobe, where he previously practiced law from 1977 until his retirement in 2016.

Kelley said he is proud of his 42 years of service as assistant city solicitor, solicitor and member of council. He especially is privileged to have been a part of the city’s growth and development for more than four decades.

“If re-elected, I promise to continue the collaborative efforts of council to do all that we can to help the city emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and to help restore prosperity to Latrobe and its citizens,” he said.

Kelley believes he can continue to bring significant background and experience to council.

He said he will continue to focus on the development of our business district and to seek ideas from various resources in helping guide Latrobe into the future.

Kelley has a broad zoning background, representing zoning hearing boards in Latrobe and other communities. For over 30 years, he was a part-time instructor, teaching law related courses at the Westmoreland County Community College, Penn State University and Seton Hill University.

Kelley is married to the former Kathleen Cignetto, a retired school superintendent, and has one daughter, Nicole.

DiVittis and her husband Marc raise three children, ages 16, 15 and 11, in Latrobe. Her children attend Greater Latrobe, where DiVittis has been involved in the past as PTO president, school volunteer and substitute teacher.

“My love for Latrobe is the reason that I have decided to make this step,” she said. “I hope to contribute to the development of continued great enhancement programs of Latrobe as well as be involved with new ideas that will help in the growth of our city.”

She is currently employed at St. Vincent College as assistant director of Campus Ministry — Spiritual Formation, and coordinator of commuter outreach.

“I am an active member of St. Vincent Basilica Parish spending time in the faith formation program, creating curriculum and programs for ages 3 to 12,” she said. “I am a seasoned teacher and school principal and have enjoyed my time in both positions in Ohio and Indiana, Pennsylvania.”

Amatucci, a lifelong Latrobe resident, wants to see the city remain an impressive place for families to grow and flourish.

She graduated from Duquesne University with a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She is co-owner of an early intervention company and has been providing occupational therapy to the county’s youth for more than 12 years.

She and her husband of 22 years, John, have three children, ages 11, 15 and 17, who attend Christ the Divine Teacher School and Greater Latrobe Senior High School.

Amatucci has served on various committees at Holy Family Church in Latrobe. She has also actively assisted as a committee chair at Christ the Divine Teacher school and has volunteered at both the Latrobe Little League and the Latrobe-Derry Area Teener League. She is currently serving on the Latrobe Municipal Authority Board of Directors.

Amatucci credits the town of Latrobe for being a grounding force for her and her family throughout her lifetime.

If elected to city council, she said she wants to see Latrobe continue to be a spot where families can settle because they are confident that it is a safe, prosperous and moral place to raise those families.

Council members Gerald Baldonieri and Christine Weller also have four-year terms which are expiring this year.

In January, Weller indicated that she planned on seeking re-election, but she did not submit a campaign announcement to the Bulletin.

Baldonieri — who has served eight years on council — said he did not plan on running four council.

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Three vying for Derry Borough mayoral post

Three candidates, including the current interim mayor, are vying for a four-year term as Derry Borough mayor.

Interim Mayor Grant Nicely and Jasen Lentz are on the Republican ballot for the May 18 primary election, while Kevin Liberoni is the lone candidate on the Democratic ticket.

Nicely, who is handling mayoral duties following the recent resignation of former mayor Alanna DeRito-Gaudiello, has 30-plus years of law enforcement experience. Nicely has previously served as Derry Borough Council president and is the current chairman of the Derry Borough Municipal Authority.

A borough resident for a large portion of his life, Lentz is employed as a systems administrator for a small business in Greensburg. Lentz is the co-founder of Cat’s Twilight cat rescue in Stahlstown, which was founded in 2009. He said tentative plans are in place to construct a building and move the rescue to Derry in the future.

Liberoni earned four-year seats on the Derry Area School Board in the 2019 and 2015 general elections, respectively. Before that, he had served consecutive terms until 2001. When he first joined the board, Liberoni became the youngest elected school director in Derry Area history at the age of 23.