Future facility use in Armstrong County: Some direction, please

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Sometimes issues need a larger arena in which to be publicly debated. Two recent examples are the future of school buildings in Kittanning and Ford City after a new high school opens in 2015 and the future of public libraries in the county.

Ford City's mayor and council members, to their credit, addressed the issue of the town's high school being mothballed earlier this month. County economic development officials have reportedly suggested that the borough take over the building from the Armstrong School District and seek a special tax status for it to encourage someone to develop the property.

The libraries are facing dwindling financial support.

But once again, our leaders seem unwilling to step out of their defined spheres of authority to bring citizens and elected leaders together.

Dealing with empty school buildings and deciding the fate of the county's four public libraries are matters of regional concern, not just for the communities in which the buildings are located. Leaders need to step forward and do two things:

1. Organize an exploratory committee to discuss ways that the school properties can be put to use (or razed if that is an alternative).

2. Organize a citizen-based movement to preserve the libraries. These facilities are more than just repositories for books. They are community centers, and their full possibilities have not been fully explored. They can be an important part of the area's cultural and political life.

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