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3 firms to review STEM plans

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Norwin officials will accept feasibility studies from three Pennsylvania architecture firms for their proposed Norwin STEM Innovation Center, which would focus on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

School board member Tom Sturm, a member of the board's building and grounds committee, announced the names of the three firms at a school board meeting on Monday.

The state-of-the-art learning and conference facility is envisioned for Norwin School District's North Huntingdon campus.

The three firms were whittled from a total of seven that expressed interest. Committee members reached out to 11 firms to gauge their interest, and seven responded, Sturm said.

“It was a very difficult evaluation process,” Sturm said.

Committee members weighed the merits of each firm, focusing on their experience in projects dealing with public education, higher education and STEM, he said. Officials also examined the companies' energy efficiency.

The three architecture firms are: Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, of Mechanicsburg; Hayes Large Architects, with offices in Harrisburg, Altoona and State College; and Canzian Johnston and Associates of New Kensington.

They're expected to provide feasibility study work by the end of May, Norwin business manager John Wilson said.

After that, Wilson said, the committee will select firms to meet with the school board for interviews.

In addition, district superintendent William Kerr announced that the district received a letter of support for the project from state Rep. Ted Harhai, a Monessen Democrat.

“This private-public project will prepare students for a 21st Century work force and will be an integral part of our future economic growth,” Harhai wrote in the letter. “I respectfully offer full support for the Norwin STEM Innovation Center in my capacity as an elected state representative.”

Also in the letter, Harhai notes that in his role as chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee, the project aligns with what employers have said about their work force needs.

This spring, state Sen. Kim Ward requested $2.5 million in state funds for the proposed Norwin STEM Innovation Center. Ward, a Hempfield Republican, said she drafted the request for Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program fund after speaking with Norwin officials.

If Norwin receives the one-time state money, Norwin will match the money in some way, perhaps through gifts from alumni, foundations and people interested in science and technology, Superintendent William Kerr said earlier this month.

“We're not looking at local taxpayer money,” Kerr has said. “We don't want to raise local taxes in any way to pay for this facility.”

The STEM center would be financed and built after officials identify business-education tenants who would commit to leasing space on a long-term basis.

“We're very pleased with the progress that we continue to make,” Kerr said. “We are making steady progress as a district.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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