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Alle-Kiski Valley first target for ‘reimagining’ Westmoreland County | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Alle-Kiski Valley first target for ‘reimagining’ Westmoreland County

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An initial step in Westmoreland County’s new comprehensive plan will be getting under way in the communities of the Alle-Kiski Valley.

County commissioners on Thursday approved a $22,500 yearlong agreement with Susan Hockenberry Coaching and Consulting to begin the process of developing a sub-county regional plan in conjunction with “Reimagining Our Westmoreland.”

Hockenberry is the executive director of the Quaker Valley Council of Governments, a network of 15 communities along the Ohio River in Allegheny County. Her work with local governments and the issues municipalities face will be helpful in Westmoreland’s process, said Jason Rigone, director of planning and development for the county.

“She has good knowledge and experience with what they deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

The firm will work with municipal officials to determine how the county can act in a supporting role to help propel them forward as part of the comprehensive plan approved in December, Rigone said.

“As we’re meeting with municipalities, we want an independent facilitator to help facilitate the conversation” about issues and challenges local officials face, Rigone said. “We recognize that collaboration and partnership are keys to success.”

“Reimagining Our Westmoreland” is a blueprint for growth over the next decade. It was created after planners spent two years meeting with citizens and local leaders in an effort to identify ways to increase population, jobs and improve the quality of life in the region.

Discussions in the A-K Valley

“Westmoreland County has been a great partner,” New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo told the Tribune-Review.

The county plan fits in with other initiatives to spur development in the Alle-Kiski Valley, including the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth that already unites Allegheny Township, Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington and Upper Burrell, Guzzo said.

“We’re all collaborating,” Guzzo said. “We know each other well.”

The consultant will be working with officials from New Kensington, Arnold, Vandergrift, West Leechburg, Upper and Lower Burrell and Allegheny and Washington townships as part of the planning process.

The idea behind it all is to “bring more energy” to the region and encourage growth, Guzzo said.

“Just an entire overall improvement to our entire Alle-Kiski Valley,” he said.

Planners identified seven objectives and 38 strategies that can help reverse a trend of dwindling population and stagnant job growth.

There are more than 100 potential projects that could reinvent the county.

It also created seven regional planning districts, where neighboring communities will work together to craft and implement specific projects identified in the document.

The remaining six districts will complete local plans by the third year, Rigone said.

Renatta Signorini and Tom Davidson are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter @TribDavidson.

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