Westmoreland groups to share $1.2 million in stimulus funding
About 75 jobs will be created through federal stimulus funding funneled to more than 30 programs in the county, officials at Westmoreland Community Action said.
"We decided to invest in our communities where we felt strongly we could help improve," said Tay Waltenbaugh, the agency's chief executive director.
The agency received $1.2 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which gives appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment and assistance to the unemployed.
Two businesses will receive nearly 30 percent of the funding, with $230,000 going to the creation of WCA's County Demo Depot and $110,000 to Advanced Geo Solutions (Green Initiative) of Greensburg.
Westmoreland Community Action is starting a nonprofit material reuse business with Demo Depot. It seeks to reduce waste by recycling building materials such as windows, doors, sinks and lights. The federal money will help in the search for a warehouse and will pay for staff and equipment.
"It's a new business that's getting up and running that will hopefully support a community need," Waltenbaugh said. "They'll be looking to employ struggling low-income individuals or unemployed single female heads of households."
Advanced Geo Solutions is a startup company that will provide "green" energy design and installation services, primarily geothermal heating and cooling. Funds will be used to expand its services.
"They're working on green initiatives, which we think are really important," Waltenbaugh said. "The research they're doing locally and support they'll give to individuals and families is important."
Some of the funding will be used to help low-income families, said Sandy Sickenberger, who was hired by Westmoreland Community Action to monitor the program. Communities primarily targeted are Jeannette, Monessen, New Kensington and Derry.
"We've done profiles of these communities," Waltenbaugh said. "Knowing these communities struggle more than most brings it a little more to the forefront. ... We're able to attack it that way. "
In Jeannette, $10,000 will cover for more hours for code enforcement, and $10,000 will be used by the city redevelopment authority to solicit consulting services and pay for membership in different housing organizations.
"To go out and promote additional building code enforcement, we need to be aggressive when looking at building codes and structural issues pertaining to commercial and residential structures," said Diana Reitz, Jeannette's community development director. "To do revitalization, you need a combination of aggressive code enforcement and police protection, or you're not going to move forward."
Monessen is using $25,000 to keep a code enforcement officer working. "You have to be able to make sure properties are kept safe," said Mayor Mary Jo Smith. "We have a lot of vacant properties in Monessen and abandoned structures. We need to address these issues."
New Kensington is eyeing revitalization through its Weed and Seed Program, begun in 2002 to root out crime and spur economic and social development. Weed and Seed received $15,000.
"It's a tremendous amount of help to us," said Sharon Resek, program coordinator. "It's helping with two jobs. Not only did we keep our program going, but we were able to bring in a grant that will allow us to keep jobs, help the business district and enhance the safety of our citizens."
Some funding will be used to facilitate a positive relationship between police and young people by maintaining two police substations in New Kensington, a ride-along program and trading cards featuring city officers. Resek said about $1,500 to $2,000 will be used for the cards.
"A lot of young people don't have interaction with police unless it's negative," Resek said about the program New Kensington has used in the past. "This gives police officers a positive way of interacting with the children."
The Jeannette School District received $40,000 to purchase smart boards, interactive classroom tools replacing chalkboards for the middle school and $27,000 for a variety of afterschool programs.
"The money allowed us to purchase equipment we didn't have funds for and after-school programs we didn't have funds for. It provided services for our kids," said Superintendent Sharon Marks. "It's successful. It's really providing things for our students that with an ordinary budget we can't do."
The stimulus funding runs through Sept. 30. In October, Westmoreland Community Action will have data on how many people were served through the programs.
"It's my job to oversee the program and make sure everybody's doing what they're contracted to do," Sickenberger said.
"It's going really well, all the programs are appreciative of the funding they really need," she said. "They're happy to receive the money. They're completely willing to do whatever they need."Additional Information:
The top 10 recipients of $1,156,977 in federal stimulus funding received by Westmoreland Community Action are:
1. County Demo Depot • $230,000
2. WCA administration • $115,077
3. Advanced Geo Solutions • $110,000
4. WCA Circle • $90,000
5. WCA Financial Literacy • $60,000
6. WCCC Pathways • $50,000
7. New Kensington YMCA-Valley Points • $45,000
8. Monessen After School • $40,000
9. Jeannette School District • $40,000
10. Derry school resource officer • $37,970
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