Laurels & lances: Funds, fire and field |
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Laurel: To working hard to make beautiful music. Some people start saving early for Christmas but the Hempfield Area High School marching band is more focused on stockpiling money for New Year’s Day.

The Spartans will ring in 2020 five hours earlier than the rest of Westmoreland County because they will be doing so in London. The band is one of just eight in the U.S. that has been asked to participate in the New Year’s Day parade in the British capital.

That means a lot of preparation, a lot of practice and a lot of hoagies. A band well-known for its fundraising sandwiches has to push 1,000 per member to make the trip, which will have a total price tag of $640,000. That’s expensive, but it’s also a priceless opportunity.

Lance: To a tepid response to a hot situation. The Churchill Center Plaza in Penn Hills burned for 12 hours and sustained as much as $1.5 million in damage in a fire that started Sunday. Penn Hills No. 7 Fire Chief Bill Jeffcoat said hours of the firefighting was futile because it was fed by natural gas that wasn’t turned off.

Peoples Gas has apologized and attributed delays to a mislabled shutoff valve and fire equipment that obstructed access to turning the gas off.

Could those things cause a delay? Absolutely. Did it have to take hours? It seems like someone would have moved a truck if it meant seven firefighters wouldn’t go to the hospital.

The questions and the response make it appear the best tool to fight this fire wouldn’t have been a hose, but better communication.

Lance: To what’s in a name. Heinz Field has never been anything but Heinz Field. It’s sad that money problems since the 2015 merger of H.J. Heinz Co. and Chicago’s Kraft have made renewal of the naming-rights deal set to expire in 2021 questionable.

Suggestions — both serious and satirical — abound for a new name, but let’s be honest. Sometimes what we call a place has less to do with a contract and more to do with the history. It is likely someone else might stick a name on the side but Pittsburghers will still call it Heinz Field.

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