Developer proposes centralization of human services in former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital
By Richard Gazarik
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A developer who wants to acquire the former Jeannette District Memorial Hospital envisions the facility as the headquarters for all Westmoreland County human service programs.
Attorney Thomas Plaitano of Hempfield heads a group interested in buying the property from Excela Health, which closed the hospital in 2011.
The county would lease space from the development group under the plan.
County officials said Plaitano's group is one of several developers that have shown interest in the property and that it is premature to evaluate any centralization of human services.
Human service programs are spread around the county, including the county courthouse, Westmoreland Manor in Hempfield and Excela Health Westmoreland hospital in Greensburg.
“A centralized human services center would allow people to get multiple services in one location, save on transportation costs and prevent waste,” Plaitano said. “Jeannette hospital is perfect due to its centralized location and access from Route 30 and the Route 66 toll road.”
Services that could be centralized in the facility would include programs for domestic violence, mental health, veterans, the elderly, children and youth, DUI and alcohol traffic safety, and GED classes, Plaitano said.
A proposed detox unit for drug addicts would be limited to seven to 10 patients at any time and would use only about 1,500 square feet of the 200,000-square-foot building, he said.
Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney said he's been working with Plaitano for several months but added that several other groups are interested in the property.
“I've been working with Tom trying to find a suitable use for the building,” Courtney said. “We're trying to keep engaged with the city of Jeannette, its solicitor and council to find out what's in the best interests of the community. But I don't know if we're at the stage where we need to be.”
Plaitano said he has met with Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, and she “cautiously expressed her interest in the project.”
Ward said Plaitano has a “general outline” of the plan, but he will have to present more details before the project can progress.
“I think they're just at the concept stage,” Ward said. “I support the redevelopment of that property, which will make it taxable for the city and county. We have to take into consideration the residents who live in that area. It's much too early to tell if the proposal fits the criteria.”
Ward said Excela officials have told her they want to develop the property for any project that will generate tax revenue for Jeannette. Excela officials have said they will raze the building if it can't be developed so it doesn't deteriorate into an eyesore like Monsour Medical Center.
Plaitano's group would renovate the building, where up to 400 people eventually would work. That's the same number of employees Jeannette hospital employed at its peak, he said.
“I was born and raised in Jeannette and lived most of my life two blocks from the hospital,” he said. “I would never be involved in a project that would hurt the Jeannette community. The people of Jeannette are my family and friends. With the help and cooperation of Excela Health, this could be a real turnaround story for my financially troubled hometown.”
Excela Health officials are noncommittal about Plaitano's proposal.
“We are interested in hearing details from several organizations who have toured the old hospital property, because we want to be part of Jeannette's revitalization,” said Jen Miele, vice president of marketing and public relations.
Plaitano and an unidentified California-based developer have toured the Jeannette hospital and Monsour Medical Center properties.
Monsour has been condemned by the city since it closed in 2006. The building has become a target for squatters, vandals and arsonists.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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