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Senator seeks $1M in state funding for Monsour, Jeannette Glass sites

| Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, 5:54 p.m.
Tribune-Review
Workers from the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. take material samples from the walls of the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette on Monday, Januar 14, 2013. Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

State Sen. Kim Ward is seeking $1 million in state funding to pay for the demolition of the condemned Monsour Medical Center and to develop the former Jeannette Glass Co. site — two eyesores that she said hinder economic development in the cash-strapped city.

Ward, R-Hempfield, said the money would come through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which is overseen by the state budget office.

Ward said she placed a “very broad” line item request for money for Jeannette that would require the county or city to take ownership of the properties so the projects could be eligible for funding.

“We kept it broad because they have so many needs there,” she said. “Monsour, the glass plant — they could be eligible as long as the government owns it.”

Each year, $125 million is set aside for capital projects across the state that are endorsed by lawmakers in their districts. Projects must have the “significant potential” for economic growth and job creation, according to program requirements.

The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. has obtained the former glass factory through a tax sale, although Zion Bullitt Avenue LLC in New York is contesting the purchase in court.

No one knows who legally owns or is responsible for the former hospital, which closed in 2006. Its former administrators and board of directors walked away from the Route 30 landmark, and the city's efforts to cite anyone for code violations have been fruitless.

Two industrial development employees wore respirators on Monday as they took samples from the deteriorating structure to determine whether it contains hazardous or toxic substances that would add to the demolition cost.

Jason Rigone, executive director of the group, did not respond to a request for an interview.

City council last week granted the county access to the building to take the samples.

The building contains mold and smells of mildew and decay. Ceiling tiles have deteriorated into a mushy substance. There are pools of standing water throughout the building because windows and doors have been stolen and the roof leaks.

City attorney Scott Avolio said the inspection is a first step toward figuring out what to do with the building, which has been vandalized and damaged by fires set by vagrants and trespassers.

Avolio said that if the building is razed, it probably will require a combination of state and county financing.

“I think that this is going to be a combined effort of the county and state funding, maybe even federal funds,” he said. “This project is vital to the health and safety of the community as a whole. It's a wise investment to facilitate the demolition of this property. This project may be so large that it may take government facilitation.”

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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