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Irwin officials consider new municipal center

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

The Irwin Volunteer Fire Department and borough officials hope to begin looking for funding and making plans for a new municipal center near Irwin Park.

The proposed facility would be built into the hillside on an empty, borough-owned lot across the street from the First Presbyterian Church and would house the borough offices, police and fire departments, according to fire department president Chad Mower.

Borough officials plan to ask members of the public for help with the planning process.

“We need to figure out a design and how much this will cost us and go from there,” Mower said.

“We're excited about it, and anybody who in the community who wants to help, I have all sorts of grant information.”

Mower estimated the building would be need to be two stories and 24,000 square feet and could cost about $3.7 million, based on the cost of similar structures in other communities. Along with borough, police and fire department offices, the building could include garages for fire trucks in the basement and a community room.

The building would allow the borough to consolidate all of its offices, cutting back on energy costs, and would provide room for the fire department to hold fundraisers, Mower said.

Councilwoman Gail Macioce said the new facility would replace the borough's aging buildings, while giving officials more space to expand.

“Our buildings are past their practical use as a borough building and fire department,” Macioce said.

Fire Chief Justin Mochar said the department officials are worried about the structural integrity of the fire station after finding cracking throughout a back portion of the building. The cracks formed in a portion of the building suspended by steel beams and concrete over a steep ravine.

He plans to provide council with a structural-stability report within the next several months.

Officials hope to apply for funding in several ways, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which provides funding for fire station construction, Mower said.

Ideally, Mower said the new building would be built to energy-efficiency standards. By combining the fire department, borough offices and police department, Irwin could see savings in utility costs, Mower added.

Council president John Cassandro said the committee should make sure to include environmentally friendly design elements when planning the building.

That could help officials find more grant money, he said.

“There should be a lot of grant money now for all of these green initiatives,” Cassandro said.

Anybody interested in serving on the municipal center committee should contact Mower at 724-864-3104.

In other news

Council hired four part-time police officers but expected another one of its part-time officers to resign.

Officials hired North Huntingdon residents Michael Kalas, 22, and Adam Painter, 23; Scott Brown, age unavailable, of Whitehall; and Matthew Johnson, age unavailable, of Irwin, at a rate of $11 per hour on an as-needed basis.

Council planned to accept the resignation of part-time officer Michelle Smirga during last night's meeting.

Officer Dan Wensel said Smirga plans to leave the department to pursue other opportunities.

The hiring and resignation brings the department to 10 part-time and three full-time officers, Wensel said.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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