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$18.5M from bonds tabbed for Westmoreland County projects

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, 11:15 p.m.
An exterior photograph of Westmoreland Manor in Hempfield on Monday, May 9, 2015.
Brian F. Henry | For The Tribune-Review
An exterior photograph of Westmoreland Manor in Hempfield on Monday, May 9, 2015.

The Jeannette Glass site and Westmoreland Manor will benefit from $18.5 million the Westmoreland County commissioners agreed to borrow this week.

The county-owned Hempfield nursing home will get about $6 million for updates and repairs, while the county's Industrial Development Corp. will get $1 million to put toward cleaning up the blighted Jeannette site.

“We certainly know the project in terms of environmental remediation ... is going to require funding,” said Jason Rigone, director of the corporation that owns the 13-acre parcel, which is littered with deteriorated buildings and remnants of glass production.

The corporation plans to use the funding as a loan and eventually repay the county, Rigone said.

“It is a start,” he said. “We have not secured any funding in addition to this.”

Commissioners approved issuing $18.5 million in bonds that will fund projects for several departments that wouldn't be possible through spending from the county's general fund.

Those projects include:

• Replacement of pavilions and restrooms at some county parks.

• Repaving of roads and parking lots at Mammoth Park.

• Replacement of light poles outside the courthouse.

• Replacement of compressors, heating and air conditioning units and boilers at several county buildings.

• The purchase of 135 portable radios for public safety workers.

In addition, $1.1 million is earmarked for new buildings for two magistrates' offices — District Judge Jason Buczak in Washington Township and District Judge Denise Thiel in Ligonier.

“We have some plans to build some courts,” said Don Heagy, district court administrator.

Specific locations haven't been determined, but Thiel's office likely will be moved to accommodate a redistricting that takes effect in 2018, and the lease on the building housing Buczak's office will be up soon, Heagy said.

The county has been slowly building its own district judge offices rather than paying to rent space.

Significant upgrades to the county's 16-year-old mobile command post will be completed with about $650,000, said Roland “Bud” Mertz, public safety director. The command post travels to emergency scenes and offers space for additional 911 dispatchers and support during a major incident.

And $2 million is earmarked for the public safety department to add two more channels to its radio system, which allows emergency responders to communicate with each other and can become overloaded during major incidents.

“We're continuously upgrading our radio system,” Mertz said.

Major updates are planned for Westmoreland Manor, where a critical state inspection last year revealed more than a dozen deficiencies, including patient-care issues and structural problems such as poorly functioning elevators.

A dozen projects are on the docket, including elevator upgrades, window replacements, an update to a fire-suppression system and roof replacements.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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