Laurels & Lances: Agricultural preservation, Elliott Group, and volunteers
Laurel: To state and county agricultural preservation boards for protecting Pennsylvania farmland from future development. Since the Pennsylvania Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program started in 1988, about 5,400 farms and roughly 560,000 acres have been preserved. That now includes a 51-acre Derry Township farm owned by John S. and Nick Yuris — one of 40 added in the latest round. This is their third farm to be preserved. What a great legacy for the family and the program.
Lance: To apathy in the Norwin School District leaving residents without full representation. Nine candidates wanted to fill a vacancy after an August resignation, but none got enough votes from the board. The Westmoreland County judges could appoint someone to the position if a voter files a petition. As of this week, no one has stepped up.
Laurel: To Elliott Group and the City of Jeannette. Elliott Group can move forward with plans to build a cryogenic pump test stand at the former Jeannette Glass site after a zoning approval from council. The company also plans to add manufacturing operations at its headquarters. The moves will add between 110 and 140 jobs to the company’s workforce.
It’s good to see Elliott invest in the city and for the city to help the longstanding employer move forward. And the rebirth of the former Jeannette Glass eyesore is a huge bonus.
Laurel: To Westmoreland County for increasing the cost of expunging criminal convictions and other court records last week by 700 percent. The new fee structure reflects a 2016 change in state law which allows counties to add $132 to the price tag to expunge cases, according to Clerk of Courts Bryan Kline. The county previously charged $22 for expungements and will now charge $154. Kline said it best: “Taxpayers should not be funding the court system. People involved in the court system should be funding it.”
Laurel: To the vibrant mural gracing a wall of the American Architectural Salvage building facing the Coal & Coke Trail in Mt. Pleasant. Dubbed “History Leaves an Impression,” the mural came together through volunteer efforts and involved community members, Boy Scouts, college students and area youths completing community service hours.
Two professors are instrumental in the project’s completion: Bernie Wilke, Westmoreland County Community College art history professor, who designed the mural; and Tim Holler, assistant professor of criminal justice at Pitt Greensburg, who serves as project director of the Community Arts and Reintegration Project for Westmoreland County.
Here’s hoping community compassion rises again as organizers plan a second mural in New Kensington.
Lance: To a lack of local appearances for the 14th Congressional District. Guy Reschenthaler’s campaign bowed out of a possible Oct. 23 forum at Seton Hill and previously declined an invite at Cal U. This is an open seat, and voters in the new district should get an opportunity to see the candidates side by side. Republican Reschenthaler and Democratic challenger Bibiana Boerio did appear together at a forum at Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazier on Sept. 21, but that wasn’t even in the district.