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Committee meeting proves chaotic

| Wednesday, May 9, 2001

CHAMPION - The first public meeting held at Seven Springs Tuesday by the Ad Hoc Coordinating Committee for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Improvement Project was, at best, chaotic.

Held in the main dining area, many in attendance complained they could not hear the speakers over the din of waitresses and the banging of plates. In addition, chamber members and many business owners that would be affected if the Donegal Interchange, Exit 9 of the turnpike, were moved to the Clay Pike area, voiced their displeasure about the committee's stance on not making any recommendations to the commission.

According to committee member Tom Roberts, the meeting was strictly to gather information about the feelings of those in the region about the turnpike issues.

'This committee is not a lobbying organization, it's a way to compile information and feelings generated concerning the construction on the turnpike,' he said.

Joseph Sarnelli, owner of Sarnelli's Market on Route 711, felt the committee was an unfair representation of business owners whose livelihoods were on the line if the interchange move was made.

'This community came together and they're saying that they'd like to have more representatives on the board if they're to get behind this ad hoc committee,' said Tom Guiher, owner of Living Treasures Animal Park and the Mountain Horse Saddlery Gift Shop.

'I think this ad hoc committee got off to a bad start,' said Al Meucci, real estate agent. 'I think we all should have been notified when you were going to meet to pick committee members. I'm always notified if someone wants a contribution.

'There's always going to be adversity towards this committee because the choosing of the committee members wasn't done in a Democratic way,' he added.

'We had to finish this in about a week and Democracies are nice but sometimes you need to just make some decisions and move forward,' responded Roberts.

Linda Brown, a florist in the Donegal area and a member of the Mountain Laurel Chamber, suggested that Meucci be added to the board that currently has 12 members, including representatives from Donegal Highlands Golf Course, Nemacolin Resort and Spa, Seven Springs Mountain Resort and Mount Pleasant, Donegal and Somerset boroughs.

Voice your opinion
The Ad Hoc Coordinating Committee for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Improvement Project urges residents to send an e-mail concerning their feelings on the turnpike construction or the possible moving of the Donegal Interchange.

All e-mails or letters will be added to information the committee plans to pass on to the turnpike commission.

The e-mail address is:

adhoccc@yahoo.com
'I think changes need to be made to this committee, but they can't be done here,' said Guiher. He suggested another meeting in Donegal early next week so that fire and emergency personnel could attend.

Sarnelli asked for the chamber, the Donegal supervisors and the ad hoc committee to state their position on the moving of the interchange.

Brown said the chamber couldn't take a stand on the issue because of the political slant of the situation.

Floyd Snyder, Donegal Township supervisor, said the board had already sent a letter to the turnpike commission voicing the concerns of the community if the interchange was moved.

'I don't like to take a stand on issues before I vote on them,' said Snyder.

Roberts once again stated that the committee was not there to take a stand or make any recommendations, but instead gather information and pass it on to the turnpike commission.

Most people in attendance were in favor of the turnpike building a cloverleaf or keeping the current interchange open at all costs, even if it meant the interchange would close down for certain times over a three-year period.

'This group is a lot different than any other group that you will get information from,' said Guiher. 'Others will be concerned with traffic reaching them, but this group is concerned with the viability of their businesses.'

'If the interchange were to be moved, it would leave a lot of people dead in the water,' he said. 'People here are scared, but if they can get past their fear and suspicion, we can start working together.'

'The word 'team' doesn't have an 'I' in it and that's what we got to do, work as a team,' said Sarnelli.

Petitions were submitted to the committee. One contained 1,006 names that were gathered in just three days. Letters from Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and Chestnut Ridge Community Volunteer Fire Company were also submitted. All opposed the move of the interchange.

'By relocating the interchange to Clay Pike, there would be additional congestion in a larger area of the community,' stated the letter from Chestnut Ridge. 'Emergency services, which used the West End Bridge to circumnavigate the traffic departing from the current interchange, would no longer be able to go around the traffic to get to their destination.'

Another meeting of the ad hoc committee is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, May 14, at the Donegal Community Center. This meeting will follow the Donegal Township meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., but will not be affiliated with the supervisors' meeting.

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