Valley projects get local share money
Charleroi, Monongahela Valley Hospital and the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium were the big local winners Thursday in the Washington County Local Share Account distribution.
The Washington County commissioners, based on advice from the local share review committee, awarded $6.2 million for 31 projects across the county.
Commissioner Larry Maggi said the committee received more than 70 applications for local share dollars this year. The money comes from revenue generated through gaming at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.
“We tried to keep this a very pristine process,” Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan said. “There are always projects that don't get funded because we're limited to what we can fund. But we encourage the applicants to continue to request in future years.”
In money allocated under the “community improvement” category, Charleroi received $235,746 for improvements to the borough building, which was built in 1917.
Borough manager Donn Henderson said the project will include installation of an elevator and sprinkler system and improvements to heating and air conditioning units and the third floor rest room.
The City of Monongahela received $339,320 to help renovate and expand the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium — the fourth year out of six the project received local share money.
“We're elated to get (the money), and a lot of work and grant writing went into it by my predecessor,” Monongahela Councilman Alan Veliky said of former Councilwoman Claudia Williams.
“Members of the LSA committee had the foresight to let us complete the project, and I'm sure they're tired of seeing us.
“They made it pretty evident that we need to get the project finished, but everything they do is most appreciated. This should be the last time we're going to be asking the LSA for aqua money. But we hope they keep us in mind for new projects.”
Veliky said the money is earmarked to establish handicap access to the stage and boat docks, benches along the walkway leading to the Aquatorium and completion of the playground area.
“We want to make it usable even when there's (no event) going on, so people can go down and fish or just relax,” Veliky said. “Eventually, what I'd like to do is put a lip around the stage and in the winter, flood it and use it for an ice skating rink.”
The Donora Public Library received $180,000 in community improvement money for repairs to the roof and the HVAC unit.
Under the “economic development” category, California Borough received $200,000 for reconstructing Technology Drive.
The money, however, will be released only after the borough takes possession of Technology Drive, according to the local share committee.
In the “public interest” category, Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township received $250,000 for an upgrade to its cardiovascular laboratory.
Hospital director of communications Corinne Laboon said the money will be used to purchase state-of-the-art imaging equipment that encircles patients for multi-angle imaging.
The money will help the hospital replace the computer system and monitors used to view the images in the catheterization lab.
Louis J. Panza Jr., hospital president and CEO, expressed appreciation Thursday.
“By awarding Monongahela Valley Hospital the funds to upgrade our cardiac catheterization lab, they are helping the hospital to maintain quality health care in our community and enabling county residents to receive expert care in their own community by the medical professionals they know and trust while preserving good jobs,” Panza said.
The Charleroi Water Authority received $500,000 for a stormwater sewer separation project, which will affect the boroughs of Speers and Dunlevy.
As mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, treatment plants must divert stormwater from sanitary sewer lines.
Other public interest money included $500,000 for the Mon Valley Sewage Authority to separate stormwater and wastewater lines. The authority serves residents in parts of Donora, Monessen and Carroll Township.
The Carroll Township Authority received $300,000 for an upgrade of the Eldora Pump Station, while the Fallowfield Township Municipal Authority received $43,000 for a proposed waterline extension along Kennedy Road.
Five municipalities will share $25,000 for regional comprehensive planning. The multi-community project comprises Charleroi, North Charleroi, Speers, Twilight and Fallowfield Township.
“Most of our general community development plans are 12 years old, if not older,” Henderson said. “We asked for $50,000 and we only got $25,000, but it's still doable.
“We'll see if the (county) redevelopment authority can come up with something to help fill the gap and we'll see if the communities can pitch in and help.”
New Eagle and Finleyville received $20,000 each for 2014 ordinance revisions.
Irey Vaughan said some of the money went to programs that affect multiple communities in the Mid-Mon Valley. For instance, $5,000 was given to PA 211 Southwest — a service of the United Way of Washington County.
The free hotline provides a central communication point for nongovernment agencies and helps residents deal with issues ranging from substance abuse to child care.
She said a significant portion of callers live in the Valley.
Donora received no money for three proposals it submitted: replacement of the HVAC system at the borough building, repairs at the Donora Smog Museum, and construction of a pavilion at Palmer Park.
Donora business manager Dennis Fisher said he was grateful for the chance to apply for local share money.
“We've done well in the past with LSA, and we can always resubmit the project for this year, next year,” Fisher said.
“I look at it this way: The next LSA application is due in October, so I have until then to resubmit and try again. The borough is thankful for any grant money it gets because that takes a burden off the taxpayers and does not have to be repaid.”
Maggi said less money was available this year because “gaming revenue is down, actually throughout the state.”
However, he said approximately half of the $6.2 million was allocated to Mid-Mon Valley-based projects.
“Unfortunately, you can't fund all the projects. Some people get upset if their project is rejected. But we have our top economic people in the county making these decisions, and we try to take the politics out of it,” Maggi said.
“We don't go in with the idea that we're going to put so much LSA money in each area of the county.”
Maggi said the goal is to streamline the process and award the money based on the merits and the viability of each project.
“Our process is considered a model process throughout the state, and we're pretty proud of it,” Maggi said.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.