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Ground broken for WCCC-Latrobe

| Saturday, June 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Shovels and hard hats commemorate a ground-breaking ceremony for Westmoreland County Community College Latrobe. The 30,000-square-foot, two story facility will be situated on 1.8 acres that will stretch from Depot to Jefferson Street.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
An architect's drawing shows Westmoreland County Community College Latrobe, a 30,000-square-foot, two story facility.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Dr. Daniel J. Obara, president of Westmoreland County Community College, talks with guests after a ground-breaking ceremony for Westmoreland County Community College Latrobe. The 30,000-square-foot, two-story facility will be situated on a 1.8 acres that stretches from Depot to Jefferson Street.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Arnold Palmer, along with local officials and dignitaries, scoops a shovel full of soil during a ground-breaking ceremony for Westmoreland County Community College Latrobe. The 30,000-square-foot, two-story facility will be situated on a 1.8 acres that stretches from Depot to Jefferson Street.

Before some put on hard hats and tossed dirt to signify the beginning of construction, about 140 state, county and local officials gathered under a large tent Friday for the groundbreaking for a new Westmoreland County Community College education center in Latrobe.

College President Daniel Obara said he could remember teaching night classes through the college at Latrobe High School in the 1970s.

Now, the new center — it will replace the aging Laurel Education Center down the street — will continue WCCC's mission to provide affordable education while working together with the city, nearby businesses and other local institutions like St. Vincent College, he said.

“We hope our new facility will serve as a welcomed space for these relationships to flourish,” Obara said.

The $10 million building at Jefferson and Depot streets will include 30,000 square feet of classrooms, computer and science labs, study areas and offices on two floors. The college acquired 11 downtown parcels covering 1.8 acres for the new building and 92 parking spaces.

“Today, the college is a hub for educational opportunities and excellence, a leader in workforce training and an engine for economic development,” said Bud Smail, board member of the WCCC Educational Foundation.

County Commissioner Ted Kopas called the center a “two-for-one” victory in development for both future students and the city of Latrobe, providing a resource to the students that can help “revitalize a core community.” Representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland; and state Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Washington Township, offered their congratulations.

“This addition will benefit students, staff and residents of Latrobe for years to come,” said Bob John, deputy director for the governor's southwest office.

One of five centers in Westmoreland County, WCCC-Latrobe will offer community rooms for local groups or the estimated 1,000 students who will use the center.

Plans were first developed for the new center after a master facilities study by WCCC in October 2009 recommended $3.5 million in renovations.

The former Kennametal research facility was built in the 1950s and renovated in 1988 with capacity for about 450 students.

Latrobe Mayor Barbara Griffin acknowledged WCCC board member and Latrobe Councilwoman Rosie Wolford's role in bridging the relationship between the city and the college.

“She was the spark to get us moving on this,” Griffin said.

Latrobe City Manager Alex Graziani said after the ceremony that he was glad to see so many officials praising the project.

“We're kind of on display today, and I think we've put our best foot forward,” he said.

Construction of WCCC-Latrobe is scheduled to be completed for fall 2014 classes.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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