Commissioners expected to award pacts for $1M forensics center in Hempfield
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Work to convert the shuttered waste-to-energy plant in Hempfield into a state-of-the art forensics center could begin next month.
Westmoreland County commissioners on Thursday are expected to award a series of contracts to build the 18,000-square-foot facility that will house a new coroner's office, morgue, crime labs and records storage areas.
The nearly $1.1 million project is expected to be completed by June 2014, said county engineer Gary Vautard.
Commissioners said they will pay for the center with proceeds from a $55 million financing package they approved in April that included $8 million earmarked for new capital projects.
“It's a piece of real estate that if we don't do something with that building, it will continue to deteriorate,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney. “It will be converted to meet the county's needs.”
For more than a decade, the building served as a waste-to-energy plant where garbage was incinerated to produce steam energy that heated the county jail, nursing home, juvenile detention center and the now-closed state prison, all nearby.
The plant was once seen as a ground-breaking initiative to save energy costs. But it never turned a profit, and county commissioners closed it in 1998. It lost more than $400,000 during its last year in operation.
For the past 15 years, the building served as a storage area for equipment for Westmoreland Manor and other county buildings.
Commissioners now plan to recast the former energy plant.
“We're essentially building a building within a building,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson.
The county will construct a two-story facility within the outer shell walls of the energy plant. The ground floor, which had held the incinerator, will be used to store records.
A new, 11,000-square-foot second floor will be built for the coroner's office and will include an autopsy suite and a morgue with a walk-in cooler that can store up to 30 bodies.
The facility will house crime labs used by county detectives.
“This will put us all under one roof,” said Coroner Ken Bacha. “It's a smart move, and it will improve our efficiency.”
The coroner's office now occupies space on the sixth floor of the courthouse and operates a six-drawer morgue at Westmoreland Manor. County forensic detectives work out of a county-owned building on Donohoe Road in Hempfield.
Bacha said a $180,000 state grant will be used to purchase equipment and to create an autopsy suite.
The coroner's office now contracts with Dr. Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh to conduct autopsies. Bacha said Wecht will continue to work for the county.
The new autopsy suite will be sparsely equipped for now.
“We're not making any plans to switch from Dr. Wecht. We're satisfied with Dr. Wecht, but it gives us an option in the future,” Bacha said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
- Crash closes I-70 lanes for hours
- PSU students accused of intimidation
- Greensburg inks new deal with police chief
- Pair robs Hempfield pharmacy
- Jeannette alerted to police costs
- 3 sentenced to prison in Salem drug, gun case
- Mt. Pleasant Holiday Homes Tour set
- South Greensburg adopts budget, no tax hike
- Bank nixes Jeannette finance plan
- Long-serving fire chief shrugs off honors