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Latrobe council OKs $10M WCCC plan

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Latrobe council on Monday gave its stamp of approval to the Westmoreland County Community College's plans for a $10 million Laurel Education Center that the school hopes will be ready for students in the fall of 2014.

Acting on the city planning commission's recommendation, council gave its unanimous approval to land development and land consolidation plans for the community college's new 1.8-acre Latrobe campus, which will front Depot Street and cover an area bounded by the Loyalhanna Creek, Jefferson and Depot streets and Bank Alley. Council did not ask any questions about the plans before the vote.

With it's current Latrobe campus across the Loyalhanna Creek, the college acquired 11 downtown parcels covering 1.8 acres over the past two years for its new site. The college has not yet advertised for bids for the project, said Anna Marie Palatella, college spokeswoman.

The school anticipates beginning construction this summer, with the project being completed in time for the the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

A.W. McNabb LLC of Burgettstown has demolished all but one building at the site and must clear the area of debris from the demolition.

The site plan developed by the college's engineer, L.Robert Kimball & Associates of Ebensburg, shows the building with 92 parking spaces in the rear, abutting Bank Alley.

The plans call for the college to landscape the site with trees and shrubs, such as red maples, river birch, Douglas fir, evergreens, yews and rhododendron.

In other business, council agreed to support Excela Health in its opposition to the proposed construction of a physical rehabilitation hospital in Unity Township.

City Manager Alex Graziani said that Excela Health presented “hundreds of petitions” signed by Excela Latrobe Health employees who oppose Post Acute Medical LLC's plans to build a 54,400-square-foot, 40-bed in-patient rehabilitation center on a 6.9-acre parcel along Route 30 at the intersection of Grayhawk Court. Post Acute said that its rehab hospital will create about 200 jobs.

Excela Health contends that the construction of a rehabilitation hospital will hurt Excela's 16-bed, in-patient rehab center at its Latrobe hospital.

“We really appreciate their joining in the opposition. Anything that impacts Latrobe hospital, will impact Latrobe,” said Jennifer Miele, Excela spokeswoman, after the meeting.

While there are about 25 employees directly involved with Excela's in-patient rehab facility at Latrobe, Post Acute's project would impact all of the departments, including dietary, laboratory and maintenance, Miele said.

Latrobe Mayor Barbara Griffin said that council would not attempt to tell the township supervisors how to vote on the rehab hospital. The supervisors are expected to consider approving Post Acute's plans at a meeting on Thursday.

Councilman Michael Skapura was the only councilman who opposed Excela's request.

“This is the same Excela Health that listened to our request to stay in town, or is this a different Excela?,” Skapura asked, referring to Excela's decision to build its outpatient care center in Unity rather than in Latrobe.

Griffin reminded Skapura that the hospital remains in town.

“Excela Health has no plans to leave town,” Miele said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Meida.

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