Connellsville armory sale awaits final approval
Approval from Gov. Ed Rendell and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is all that is needed before the city of Connellsville becomes the owner of the 100-year-old former Pennsylvania National Guard armory in the city.
Legislation authorizing the transfer of the armory from the state Department of General Services received unanimous support from the state Senate last week. The armory will cost the city $50,000.
The armory, located at 108 W. Washington Ave., was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
The building was vacated in August 2005 when B Company 1-103rd Armored Division moved to a new readiness center on Rockridge Road in Connellsville Township.
State Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Fayette, proposed selling the armory and 0.26 acres of land to the city.
"I am pleased by the Senate passage of this bill and am confident the governor will sign the measure into law," Kasunic said. "I will continue to work closely with local government officials to make sure state government does its part to help Connellsville continue its revitalization."
The state House approved the transfer in June. State Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland, introduced the legislation. Kula said the bill prohibits the land from being used for gambling purposes, and proceeds from the sale would be deposited in the state Armory Fund.
The city received 80 percent of the cost through the combined efforts of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 21 and former Connellsville resident Nancy Stafford.
Post 21 pledged $30,000, while Stafford agreed to donate $10,000 on behalf of her father, a past commander of Post 21. Payments will be spread over five to six years.
The remaining $10,000 will be paid by public contributions, which have not yet been secured. Connellsville Cultural Trust will work with Connellsville Redevelopment Authority and City Council to develop renovation plans.
Trust President Michael Edwards said a steering committee will be formed to guide development, which likely will include a veterans' museum and community center. The steering committee will develop fundraising plans.
City Council dedicated $100,000 of its 2007 federal Community Development Block Grant toward renovations. Council likely will designate additional money from the 2008 CDBG grant.
"I'm very glad that this historic site on the national register will be under local control," Mayor Judy Reed said. "I very much like what the cultural trust is saying about establishing a governing body to discover the role this building will play in the city's redevelopment."
Because the purchase price will come from private donations, the project qualifies for the federal Preserve America program, a public/private partnership that will provide grants and technical assistance.
Edwards said residents may be able to rent the facility for parties and other gatherings.
An architect from Gilberti & Associates of Pittsburgh has looked at the armory and said the firm would charge $5,000 for a scope of work report.
Edwards said the redevelopment authority likely will need to get quotes from additional architects before selecting a firm.
No work will begin until the sales contract has been signed.
"Everything builds on heritage tourism," Edwards said. "It's all coming together. Things are definitely moving in a positive direction."