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$6.5M upgrade at Westmoreland career center benefits students

By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

A major tuneup has made Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center brighter, cleaner and warmer for about 1,000 Westmoreland County students who learn skills and trades there.

The $6.5 million project, the first major renovation since the building in New Stanton was constructed 39 years ago, is nearly complete, said the center's director, Brad Elwood.

Crews from Johnson Controls Inc. have completed about 70 percent of the project and will finish by mid-July. Work began over the summer.

Costs include $2.2 million to replace the roof, $2.4 million for heating and ventilation, and $827,000 for safety, security and technology. The heating system was original to the school and surpassed its expected service life, Elwood said.

Winter weather delayed work on the roof, a chief component of the project. In addition to the remaining roof work, crews need to replace electrical equipment, upgrade parking lot lights and update security cameras.

Most of the renovation is on the interior, so the building will still look mostly the same.

“(We're) trying to update the old,” Elwood said. “You can't learn if you don't have a safe environment. You need heat, electric.”

A new ventilation system in the welding department “sucks all the smoke and particulate” from the room, an improvement over its predecessor, a system of duct work, Elwood said. Bright energy-efficient lights replaced old bulbs. The center had been running on its original boilers, one of which failed intermittently last winter.

Officials expect to see an energy savings, although they aren't certain how much, Assistant Director Jeff Geesey said.

Nick Petrucci, Penn-Trafford School District's representative to the technical school, said he's happy about the updates, particularly the boilers and the welding ventilation.

“My big concern was the boilers and heat. I didn't want the kids to lose (school) hours or education,” he said. “You can't play boiler roulette.”

High school students from across the region can enroll in 23 half-day programs at the center, including auto mechanics, culinary, cosmetology, health, welding, machinery and painting-decorating. A new program next year will train students in sports therapy and exercise science. Classes have continued as usual during the renovations.

Nine school districts that send students to the vocational-technical school will foot the bill with costs based on each district's vo-tech enrollment during the past five years.

“Really, what we are is a wing on every school district,” Elwood said.

Before work could begin, each district had to approve the plan. In pitching the project to school leaders last year, Elwood called the work “the nuts and bolts of the building that are in dire need of a transplant.”

Project costs initially were estimated at about $9 million, but member school districts did not unanimously approve the expenses.

Vo-tech officials then scaled down the project, eliminating some electrical panel work and plumbing work, Elwood said. Tests showed the plumbing and panels are in good condition.

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



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