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Vanaski: There's always a next time, Leetsdale

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By Nafari Vanaski
Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

It's not every day the president and the vice president of the United States make plans to visit your small Western Pennsylvania borough.

It's also rare to be teased by the possibility only to have the plans scuttled just days after they're announced.

On Friday, the White House announced President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden would be visiting Leetsdale the next week to talk about the economy, specifically their new plan to spend about $600 million on competitive job training and apprenticeship programs.

By Monday, however, the White House had announced a presidential switcheroo — Obama and Biden were going to the Community College of Allegheny County's West Hills Center in North Fayette instead.

Leetsdale police Chief Jim Santucci said the borough was notified on Friday that it was a candidate for an Obama-Biden appearance at its industrial park. He talked with Secret Service agents at the state police barracks in Moon about the possibility. But even at that point, he said, Leetsdale as the destination wasn't a certainty.

“We were in a holding pattern,” Santucci said.

On Sunday, the chief said he was told the president wouldn't be coming. He said Secret Service officials didn't say exactly why, but he acknowledged that it would have been difficult to make the industrial park secure enough for the president and vice president.

“It has one way in and one way out,” he said.

Santucci said he was excited about the possibility of a visit “because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve on a presidential detail. But at the same time, it's not my headache anymore.”

Coordinating security with the Secret Service, Pennsylvania State Police and other local law enforcement officials would have been difficult for a Leetsdale department of four full-time officers (including Santucci) and six part-timers, Santucci said.

“But we were more than ready to accommodate.”

The chief said he doesn't have hard feelings. He hopes the borough (population 1,218) is considered again someday.

Not everyone was so forgiving.

Jim Circle was busy cutting hair at Mickey's Barber Shop in the Quaker Village Shopping Center when I called to ask his feelings on getting ditched. But to say he was disappointed about the change is an understatement.

“I was sitting here (last week) cutting Mario Lemieux's hair and telling him: ‘No one famous ever comes here.' So I'm P.O.'ed, you know?”

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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