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Mon Valley projects hit casino jackpot

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 1:02 a.m.

Water and sewage projects are the apparent winners in the competition for gaming money distributed by Washington County.

And Valley infrastructure projects were among the biggest recipients of funding recommendations made Wednesday by the Washington County Local Share Account Committee.

Each year, the committee hears presentations for projects, then makes recommendations to the county commissioners for a portion of the gaming revenue from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.

“The commissioners place a strong emphasis on infrastructure, especially water and sewage projects,” said Jeff Kotula, Local Share Account Committee chairman.

“I credit them in this focus, because this is what keeps our county attractive to both new residents and businesses.”

Kotula said the committee is recommending about $7.3 million for job creation, water-sewage, and community development projects.

“The county commissioners have directed us to recommend projects that will create jobs and insure the long-term growth of the county,” Kotula said. “We believe these recommended projects meet the commissioners' criteria for growth and investment.”

The Coyle Theater Renovation initiative did not make the list.

Charleroi Mayor Nancy Ellis, a member of the Mon Valley Cultural Trust, acknowledged that she and an unnamed member of the Friends of the Coyle had planned to make a presentation to the local share panel, but canceled their appointment because of illness. Ellis took exception to Kotula's comment earlier this week that the trust “did not want an opportunity to appear before the committee.”

She acknowledged that once the group missed the presentation hearings last week, the Coyle project was pretty much out of the running.

“I gave my reason why we did not show,” Ellis said. “I pretty much knew that the recommendations would come before the end of the week.

“I didn't ditch anything.”

Trust officials missed a deadline at the end of 2012 to match $179,000 in local share money awarded in 2008.

“The committee chose not to recommend the Coyle Theater project at this time,” Kotula said. “As with any project that requests further funding, we strongly consider past performance in making our recommendations.

“The fact that the project has not spent most of the original monies it was awarded several years ago and unfortunately could not raise further matching funds, the committee decided not to recommend additional funding.”

Ellis said she met Monday with a consultant who has experience in redevelopment projects that use a theater as an anchor in the downtown area.

“That's fine, we'll move on from here,” Ellis said.

Other Valley projects were successful.

“The Mon Valley was very proactive this year in submitting projects, and that work was noticed by the committee,” Kotula said. “We are recommending almost $2 million of the available $7 million for Mon Valley projects. The commissioners stress infrastructure funding for job and business growth as well as quality of life projects.

“Being from the Valley myself, it is great to see municipal and business leaders working together on the long-term development of the Valley.”

Hospitals out

The committee did not grant a joint request by the Monongahela Valley, Canonsburg and Washington hospitals for $1 million over three years to improve medical imaging programs.

Corrine Laboon, Monongahela Valley Hospital vice president of marketing and community relations, said hospital officials haven't had a chance to review the committee recommendations.

“We are appreciative of all of the consideration they've always given us,” Laboon said. “We are thankful for their support in the past. We understand they have a limited amount of funding. They're always receiving many very good requests, and they have a challenging job to decide where the money is used.”

Recommendations were made for Valley projects totaling $1,943,589, or nearly 27 percent of the $7,324,795 pool.

The Valley projects have a combined total leverage – based on such things are matching funds – of $10,953,380 for a total impact of $12,896,969.

Valley projects recommended:

• Bentworth Community Center, housing the Bentleyville Public Library, Bentworth Senior Citizen Center and the Bentleyville Historical Society Museum, recommended funding, $100,000; leverage, $1,299,622.

• Charleroi Facade Improvement Project II, Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, recommended funding, $60,500; leverage, $86,000.

• Monongahela “aquatorium” restoration and expansion project; recommended funding, $300,000; leverage, $725,778.

• Cokeburg Reservoir Dam rehabilitation; recommended funding, $200,000; leverage, $35,000.

• Donora bus maintenance facility, phase II, Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority, recommended funding, $100,000; leverage, $4,019,135.

• Donora public parking garage repair project; recommended funding, $250,000; leverage, $126,500.

• Monongahela Area Library handicap accessible entryway; recommended funding, $4,000.

• Twilight borough municipal garage; recommended funding, $80,100; leverage, $53,000.

• Center-West Joint Sewer Authority sanitary sewer collection system phase 3, recommended funding, $400,000; leverage, $122,780.

• Monongahela sewer project, phase 2; recommended funding, $200,000, leverage, $75,000.

• Sump pump replacement at the sewage treatment plant and Donora pump stations, Mon Valley Sewage Authority, recommended funding, $50,000; leverage, $50,000.

• Venetia Road and Bower Hill Road capacity augmentation, Peters Creek Sanitary Authority, recommended funding, $100,000; leverage, $315,000.

• Donora water line and fire hydrant extension project, recommended funding, $99,589, leverage, $33,196.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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