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Westmoreland County will ask for $1M from state to raze Monsour Medical Center

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County will ask the state for $1 million to pay for demolition of the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, which officials say has deteriorated to the point it poses a hazard for pedestrians and motorists.

Jason Rigone, executive director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., will ask the county commissioners on Thursday to approve a business plan that will be submitted to the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program in Harrisburg by the Feb. 7 deadline.

The program is highly competitive. Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett approved 58 projects totaling $133 million across the state.

“It will be competitive going in for Monsour, but I think the state sees Monsour as a priority,” Rigone said.

If the county obtains the funding, the development group will raze the tower along Route 30 so the property can be redeveloped. Rigone said a contractor will start work on Jan. 29 to tear down a small building adjacent to the hospital and later will demolish another collapsing structure.

In April, a county-commissioned study revealed there is 38,000 square feet of asbestos contained in floor tiles, pipes and the textured ceiling in the former hospital.

The report estimated it will cost $275,000 to remove the cancer-causing fiber and $650,000 to tear down the building.

In the meantime, the county and city of Jeannette have reached an agreement to encircle the former hospital, which closed in 2006, with a barricade to keep out trespassers and vandals until demolition work starts.

The county hopes to acquire the Monsour property later this year through a free-and-clear sale. Lienholders have been notified, but none have filed any objections to the process, according to court records.

Rigone said the county is at a disadvantage in funding capital projects because it competes against counties that have other revenue sources. Washington, Allegheny and Fayette have casinos and can combine those proceeds with state financing to pay for projects.

“What is most unfair with the program ... some counties have casino funding and qualify for RCAP as well,” Rigone said.

Washington County had projects totaling $4.5 million approved in December. Fayette made no requests.

State officials warn the program is not a sure thing.

Some Westmoreland projects, including a $4 million request to renovate the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, have languished since 2004.

Out of Westmoreland projects that sought funding last year, only the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg was approved. It received $1 million to help pay for the multi-million dollar expansion now under way.

Rejected applications include $21.5 million for Excela Health, $10 million for various projects in Hempfield and $8 million for the Latrobe Redevelopment Authority, as well as funding for projects in North Huntingdon, Lower Burrell, Upper Burrell, Monessen, East Huntingdon and Westmoreland County.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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