Indiana County commissioners apply for grant to help construct housing for homeless veterans
Indiana County's commissioners on Wednesday applied for a final piece of funding needed to construct the first in a series of planned buildings for housing homeless veterans in the county.
If the competitive $155,000 state grant is approved, it would serve as the county's share of a $1.4 million package for financing development of the six-unit Clinton Street Gardens Homeless Veterans Housing Project at Clinton Street and North Fifth Avenue in White Township.
According to LuAnn Zak, of the county office of planning and development, if all goes well, the county and its development partner — the Northern Cambria County Development Corporation — could break ground on the veterans' housing complex in the middle of 2013 and be ready to accept occupants a year from now.
“We need it,” Zak said of the facility. She said she'd learned that Brenda Stormer of Indiana County's Veterans Affairs office was currently working to assist seven homeless veterans in the county.
The Clinton Street Gardens complex would include six one-bedroom units and an additional two-bedroom unit.
Zak said at Wednesday's regular meeting of the county commissioners that the final piece of funding for the complex is being sought through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) program. She explained it is part of a $2.5 million pot derived through the state's Marcellus shale impact fee. In a round of funding next month, she said, half of that money will be up for grabs by counties like Indiana where drilling of deep Marcellus shale gas wells has been most prevalent.
The county also is expecting to receive another $500,000 state housing grant for the project, Zak said. She explained that funding application is under final review by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Additional money for the veterans' housing complex has been obtained through a state block grant program and funding provided by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Once work is complete on Clinton Street Gardens, Zak said the county and NCCDC will turn their attention to development of a second proposed veterans' housing project on Indiana's Chestnut Street, on property that has been provided by the Corte family. Zak noted interest has been expressed in eventually developing a third such site.
Zak reported that residents in the Chevy Chase neighborhood surrounding the Clinton Street Gardens site have responded positively to that project. She said residents have been calling to offer donation of household items for use by the building's eventual occupants.
“There's a lot of momentum building” in the county in support of services for veterans, Commissioners Chairman Rod Ruddock said. “Things are really moving along.”
He said county officials this month will be attending a meeting to learn more about the Veterans Administration's announced plan to develop a medical clinic in Indiana County. The clinic could eliminate the need for local veterans to travel to an existing VA facility in Altoona for some services.
He also mentioned a new Indiana First Bank Veteran's Marathon and Half Marathon that will be held on the Ghost Town Trail on Veterans Day to benefit the Indiana County Veterans' Assistance Fund. Registration for the event will conclude on Oct. 27 or whenever a maximum of 150 runners have signed on for each of the two races. A registration form is available at www.indianaroadrunners.com.
At Wednesday's meeting, the commissioners paused to reflect on the recent deaths of two local public servants — former county commissioner Bill Shane of Indiana and Ed Setlock of McIntyre, a board member of the Indiana County Transit Authority, also known as Indigo.
Shane was fatally injured in a one-vehicle traffic accident Oct. 4 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Fulton County. He was appointed as an Indiana County commissioner in 2002 after James McQuown resigned from the county board.
In a multi-faceted career in public service, Shane also had served on Indiana Borough Council, in the state House and chaired Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission.
“He was truly a civic servant, having served at all levels of government,” Ruddock said of Shane. “He was a trusted friend of all of us. It's a big loss for this community.”
Ruddock said his last conversation with Shane dealt with the latter's role as board president of the Chevy Chase Community Center, which provides human services in the community and is located next to the site of the proposed county veterans' housing.
According to Ruddock, Shane expressed a desire for the Chevy Chase center “to take ownership of working with the families on that project. We have a responsibility to follow up on his thoughts.”
Evanko indicated she became familiar with Shane through their shared membership in the local Democratic party. But, she said, “He was a great supporter on both sides of the aisle,” acting as a mentor for those less experienced in public service.
Commissioner Dave Frick noted Shane was a classmate of his at Indiana Area High School and a fellow worshipper at Indiana's Graystone Presbyterian Church. Frick recalled Shane as someone who put his faith into action and “was really committed to what he was doing.”
Ruddock said Setlock was a faithful and valued member of the Indigo board: “He always asked some tough questions about funding and made sure things were done right.”
The commissioners also proclaimed Oct. 21-27 National Business Women's Week in Indiana County, recognizing local members of the Business and Professional Women group. Evanko, who read the proclamation, pointed out how much women have contributed to various business and professional fields. She noted that women-owned businesses account for 30 percent of all U.S. business, generating $1.2 trillion in sales.
The commissioners next will meet at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 24.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.