Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
By Richard Gazarik
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
Jeannette council expects to approve an agreement with the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. on Wednesday to set up a barrier around the former Monsour Medical Center on Route 30 and demolish two adjacent buildings that pose a threat to pedestrians and motorists.
Mayor Robert Carter said any help is welcome.
“As cash-strapped as we are, we can't do it without outside help,” he said.
Jason Rigone, director of the development group, told council this week that a stone house that was damaged by fire in April and a building known as the greenhouse need to be razed immediately.
“We don't want to hesitate any longer. ... The site needs to be buttoned up and boarded up,” Rigone said.
The 1783 stone house, known as Senator Brown's Mansion, served as the original Monsour hospital and later as hospital offices. Rigone said the exterior walls have bowed and a heavy snow could cause the structure to collapse into the path of motorists on heavily traveled Route 30.
Money for the demolition and barrier construction will come from the Neighborhood Partnership Program, run by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Elliott Co. and First Niagara Bank have committed $50,000 each over the next five years for projects to revitalize the community, said Tay Waltenbaugh, executive director of Westmoreland Community Action.
The money can be used for housing, local services, neighborhood improvements, crime prevention, education or job training in blighted and distressed municipalities such as Jeannette, according to the DCED.
Companies that contribute at least $50,000 and make a five-year commitment will receive tax credits of as much as 75 percent.
Westmoreland Community Action is the applicant.
Rigone said it will cost $25,000 to construct a barrier at Monsour and $23,000 to demolish the two buildings. The county needs nearly $1 million more to eventually tear down the canister-shaped main building.
City attorney Scott Avolio said Jeannette's Health Board will give the county permission to secure the building. The authority has declared the site a public hazard.
The county plans to hold a free-and-clear tax sale next year to acquire the land and redevelop the site for commercial use. Officials have notified Monsour Medical Center Inc., the federal government and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. of its intention.
Once the doors are sealed, a fence will be erected around the former hospital “to protect innocent bystanders,” Avolio said.
Jeannette is banking on three defunct businesses — the Monsour hospital, Jeannette District Memorial Hospital and the Jeannette Glass plant — to lift the city out of indebtedness. The development of commercial properties at the sites would generate property tax revenue the landlocked city desperately needs.
Jackie Parker, an economic consultant from Lebanon, Pa., told council this week that for Jeannette to grow, it needs to give residents a reason to stay in the city. She said it will take private investment, as well as state grants, to make the three projects viable.
“Economic development is going to be the answer,” she said. “Government can't do it.”
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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