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Program already making big changes on Jeannette's Clay Avenue

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit
Jeannette councilwoman Kathie Tanyer and residents Matthew Nicholson, Laura Smith, Chuck Highlands, Clarence Garland and Clyde Bittner Jr. listen as Westmoreland Community Action's Tay Waltenbaugh explains the Neighborhood Partnership Program.

Big changes are happening on Clay Avenue due to the Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP).

Trees were removed on the avenue in September to make room for a city beautification project.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's website describes NPP as “Long-term collaborations (five years or more) of business, government and community leaders too produce a comprehensive, asset-based and relationship-driven approach to community development.”

In Jeannette, the project has been led by Westmoreland Community Action, a county based nonprofit that was the lead agency of the new housing project on Sixth Street, the Jeannette Circles Initiative and operates a Head Start program in the city.

Westmoreland Community Action is heavily involved in community development throughout Westmoreland County. Director Tay Waltenbaugh and his staff worked closely with the Elliott Company and First Niagara Bank, who are the initial funders for the project and have pledged approximately $500,000 over a period of five years for beautification projects in the city.

Sitting on the board of the partnership are Waltenbaugh, Jack Brown, director of community services at Westmoreland Community Action, Brian Lapp, vice-president of the Elliott Company, Chuck Peterson, First Niagara Bank's community development officer, Jason Rigone of the Westmoreland Industrial Development Corporation, Jeffrey Diehl, CFO of Westmoreland Community Action, Clyde Bittner, Jeannette resident-at-large, Kim Knoll, First Niagara Bank vice-president, Diana Reitz, the city's community development coordinator, and Mayor Robert Carter.

The overall focus is beautification. Waltenbaugh's agency, rather than city government, will oversee the funds and he is working toward getting other companies in the community involved. Waltenbaugh has been gathering a committee of city residents to do hands-on work and make suggestions. That committee has named itself the Jeannette Community Action Team.

The tree removal was undertaken for a number of reasons including: complaints from some businesses that signage was not visible, complaints that the berries falling from the trees stained vehicles and the trees grow at a rapid rate which entangles them in the power lines. The city has not been able to keep up with the maintenance of the trees.

The concrete will be repaired where trees were removed. The NPP and the Jeannette Community Action Team are working on a comprehensive beautification plan which includes hanging flower baskets from the light posts in addition to some planters. That will be completed by next spring.

The Jeannette Community Action Team is made up of Jeannette residents who are interested in suggesting projects for the NPP board and doing some hands on work. The team has been meeting since June and some members include Laura Smith, Nancy Peters, Kathie Tanyer, Clarence Garland, Matt Nicholson, the Rev. Anthony Murray and Chuck Highlands. NPP Board members Clyde Bittner and Diana Reitz attend most meetings.

The Jeannette Community Action Team is seeking members. Membership is open to all residents of the community. The next meeting of the Jeannette Community Action Team is Oct. 10, at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The team is encouraging attendance of all community members who wish to serve on the committee and be involved in these projects.

On Oct. 20, the Jeannette Community Action Team will sponsor a cleanup on Clay Avenue to prepare for the upcoming holidays. With the Halloween parade right around the corner, the team will be weed whacking and doing other cleaning projects. Volunteers are meeting near the Dollar General in the 700 block of Clay Avenue at 12:30 p.m. The team would like to stress that all community members are encouraged to participate.

For information, contact Waltenbaugh at or attend the next meeting.

Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.