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WCCC's Latrobe plan proceeds

Westmoreland County Community College officials are nearing the purchase of six privately owned properties on which it will build an education center in Latrobe that eventually will be part of the school's new satellite campus system.

WCCC President Daniel Obara said on Thursday that purchases of two of the parcels needed to build the 26,000-square-foot facility have been finalized, while deals for four additional properties are close to completion.

Last month, the college agreed to lease three parcels owned by Latrobe, including two parking lots, needed for the project.

"There will be a few businesses and private residences that will be demolished. Our plan is to have about 500 students at the Laurel Center, in the downtown Latrobe area, contribute to the economic development of the downtown area," Obara said.

The college also might seek to purchase the three public properties from Latrobe. To accomplish that, county commissioners yesterday appointed five members of the college's board of trustees to a reconstituted Westmoreland County Community College Redevelopment Authority.

Obara said the authority, which was created four decades ago when the county purchased property for its main campus near Youngwood, is needed should the college opt to eventually purchase land from Latrobe.

Last year, county commissioners agreed to pay about half of the project's $7 million cost. School officials said construction of the school building is estimated at $6 million, while the property purchases account for the remaining $1 million price tag.

The new school building will replace the outdated Laurel Education Center, which is located in a former Kennametal facility near Latrobe. Obara said the new facility should be open for students by fall 2013.

The Latrobe facility will be similar to the educational center the college opened in 2009 in New Kensington. The Latrobe and New Kensington sites, along with education centers in Waynesburg and Indiana, will be part of a shift in WCCC's operations.

"They could be reclassified as campuses in the next several years. That means students will be able to complete their degrees there instead of having to come to the Youngwood campus," Obara said.

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