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Palmer airport near Latrobe to reward Spirit's 140,000th passenger

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

One passenger flying out of the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport — the 140,000th passenger — will get a free trip on Spirit Airlines, airport officials said Tuesday.

With 120,265 passengers arriving and departing on Spirit flights at the airport near Latrobe in the first 10 months of the year, the Westmoreland County Airport Authority anticipates the number will reach 140,000 in December, said Executive Director Gabe Monzo.

To determine the winner of the free flight, Latrobe Airline Services will count departing and arriving passengers on the discount carrier until the number reaches 139,998, Monzo said. The winner will be the second outbound passenger who checks in, Monzo said.

Jeffrey Minkovich, Latrobe Airline Services operations manager, which handles passenger service duties, declined to reveal the precise passenger count.

“We get 140,000 people who didn't have to go to Pittsburgh (International Airport). It's a win-win-win,” for Westmoreland County, for the passengers and for the airport, said Donald Rossi, airport authority chairman.

Spirit, which has carried 184,278 passengers since it began local service in February 2011, offers daily service to and from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It has discontinued seasonal flights to Myrtle Beach until the spring.

The cost of a one-way ticket can range from $9 for a special deal to more than $200.

The free flight will cost the airport nothing; an unidentified benefactor will pay for it, Rossi said.

In other matters, the authority plans to close the $105,000 purchase of Carrie Ferrenberg's property along Pleasant Unity Road on Dec. 5, which paves the way for the authority to create a new main entrance to the airport.

The new entryway would connect to the airport's existing parking lot and any future parking area, Monzo said.

It would be designed so it doesn't interfere with any future Laurel Valley Connector, the proposed highway that would connect Route 30 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike via Route 981, he said.

The authority also awarded contracts for the construction of a $1.869 million public safety building along the airport runway.

The general construction contract for $1.356 million went to Arcon Contracting Inc. of New Kensington. Darr Construction Inc. of Berlin, Somerset County, was awarded three contracts: electrical work, $290,00; heating, ventilating and air conditioning, $131,600; and plumbing, $87,500.

Ed Nasuti, authority engineer, does not expect construction to begin until January. All bids were the lowest submitted, he said.

The contracts can't be officially awarded until the authority meets in December because there was not a quorum at the meeting Tuesday, said Don Snyder, authority solicitor.

The secure facility will house some of the $7 million in emergency equipment scattered across the county in storage, Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety spokesman Daniel Stevens said last month. The county's mobile emergency center also would be housed there

It is expected to take about a year to build the facility.

Funding for the project includes a $900,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security and an $850,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in Pittsburgh.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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