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Indiana County to close gap in fiber optic link to Westmoreland

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Indiana County's emergency communications system will soon get a boost with a fiber optic connection that will link it with a similar system in neighboring Westmoreland County.

At their March 27 meeting, the Indiana County commissioners approved a change order to install fiber optic cable across a nine-block gap between the systems, in Blairsville.

According to Indiana County Emergency Management Agency director Tom Stutzman, Indiana County's fiber optic line ends on Blairsville's North Walnut Street while another that was installed by DQE Communications of Pittsburgh and that runs to Greensburg terminates on East Brown Street in Blairsville.

Salsgiver Telecom, Inc. was approved to connect the two lines. Stutzman said the change order for the project totals $45,000, with $9,000 of that amount reserved for construction costs and the remainder allotted for recurring maintenance over the next decade.

According to Commissioners Chairman Rod Ruddock, connecting the lines will help avoid the need for costly microwave equipment for the system and will save the county about $300,000.

The commissioners last week also authorized Indiana County Parks and Trails to solicit bids for the gas rights under a roughly 11-mile length of the Ghost Town Trail hiking and biking path.

“The property in this particular location is about a hundred acres in size,” Parks and Trails director Ed Patterson said. “Now, keep in mind that the trail property itself is about 75 feet wide, so we're talking about a long, narrow strip of ground... In the bidding, we're requesting that there actually be nothing on the trail property: no wells, no well heads or any kinds of facilities.”

The section of trail in question is bordered on both sides by State Game Lands 276, where gas wells already exist.

“We're essentially talking about a Marcellus well that would be off the property that would go down six, eight thousand feet underneath the trail and cross over into this other tract of game lands property,” said Patterson.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Lent their official support to the Challenger Learning Center project with a proclamation. Indiana Area and Homer-Center school district officials have jointly launched an effort to build an Indiana County version of an existing series of centers that allow students to apply math and science principles by engaging in simulated space missions. Proponents have been seeking support for the center from area school boards and other governing bodies.

• Approved a contract agreement with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in the amount of $155,000 for the proposed homeless veterans housing project at North Fifth Avenue and Clinton Street in White Township.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at (724) 459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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