Progress Council presents three Irey awards at 48th annual event

| Friday, April 26, 2013, 1:46 a.m.

As Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission CEO Mike Compton returned to his seat after receiving an award Thursday night, presenter Robert Irey had a message for him.

“My father wanted to see the expressway completed to Pittsburgh,” Irey said of the late Frank Irey Jr., former Mon Valley Progress Council president.

“We still have work to do.”

Compton's reply was succinct – and promising: “We do.”

For those receiving awards at the 48th annual Mon Valley Progress Council dinner meeting – “A Celebration of Progress” – the evening was as much about future promises as past accomplishments.

The event was held at the Willow Room in Rostraver Township.

Annual Frank Irey Joined in Progress awards went to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Charleroi Regional Police Force and steelmaker ArcelorMittal.

In addition, Lou Panza, president and CEO of Mon-Vale Health Resources Inc., received the Allison Maxwell Award for Outstanding Leadership.

Robert Burke, Progress Council vice president, noted some of Monongahela Valley Hospital's accomplishments under Panza's leadership:

• Implementation of the Journey to Excellence program, which led the hospital to be rated No. 1 in patient satisfaction from 2009 to 2013.

• Installation of a state-of-the-art linear accelerator in radiation oncology (cancer care), traditionally available only in academic hospitals.

• A picture archive and communication system.

• Development of cutting-edge operating rooms with enhanced video diagnostics.

Panza said he was humbled to be in the company of the previous 12 Allison Maxwell awardees.

The award, not given each year, is presented when one person is deemed worthy of the honor, Burke noted.

Panza suggested there will be future accomplishments in the Valley.

“Success of our Valley is not because of one person, but because of all of you,” Panza said. “Together, we can do more things than one person can ever do.”

Compton said he accepted the award on behalf of all turnpike workers and officials whose efforts led to the completion of more than 60 miles of the Mon/Fayette Expressway stretching from Interstate 68 in Fayette County to Route 51 in southern Allegheny County.

Compton likened the Expressway to running a marathon.

“Today is just a milestone,” Compton said. “No one's doing victory laps. We know there is still work to do.”

Gregory Shamitko, manager of environmental affairs for ArcelorMittal, called the award's namesake a person of “unshakable positive attitude.”

He said that same attitude has been exhibited by workers at the Monessen coke plant.

The downtown facility has had multiple owners, two of which had filed for bankruptcy, and several shutdowns.

The Luxembourg-based corporation is investing $50 million in the coke plant. The company plans to place the idled coke ovens in operation by next spring, recalling and hiring a combined 250 workers.

North Charleroi, Charleroi and Speers officials were recognized for forming the Charleroi Regional Police Department. They were the first to receive a progress council award recognizing intergovernmental cooperation efforts.

Charleroi Mayor Nancy Ellis thanked state Rep. Peter J. Daley, D-California; state Sens. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar Township, and Timothy Solobay, D-Canonsburg; the Washington County commissioners and redevelopment authority; solicitors Mike Lucas and Chris Cardinale; the state Department of Community and Economic Development; and the regional police members.

Speers Mayor Bill Lee said regionalization is a great asset in the member communities as they deal with fiscal challenges.

He said the regional force is providing around-the-clock protection.

Lee extended an invitation to his neighbors.

“If there are any residents of Fallowfield Township here tonight, please pass along a message to the supervisors that we want to share it,” Lee said. “And to any other municipalities that want to join us, come talk to us.”

Fitting the mood of the evening, Lee had a message for the turnpike commission.

“I hope to God before I die, we have (the expressway) finished into Pittsburgh,” Lee said.

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

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