Panel wraps up final round of LSA hearings

January 22, 2014
From left, Kelly Emborsky, Steve Thomas and Tony Rosenberger of Chapman Properties present their plan for an office project off Racetrack Road and Tanger Boulevard, across from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino Tuesday. - Rick Shrum / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The Main Street Farmers Market is hoping this will be the year its many customers will see a pavilion rise above and cover the highly successful community project that began a decade ago.

The project was among 48 presented to the Washington County Local Share Committee Wednesday, as it wrapped up two days of hearings to determine how it will disburse about $6 million available from the 2014 Local Share account. The funds are made available from proceeds from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Suzanne Ewing, one of the founders of the farmers market, described the proposed $849,000, 15,000-square-foot structure that would not only cover the weekly market but also provide electricity, water and restrooms.

The pavilion would be built over the municipal parking lot directly across from the Observer-Reporter on South Main Street. In addition to the thousands of people it draws to the weekly market held between May and October, it would also provide a venue for a number of other community events throughout the year, said Ewing, whose group is seeking a final $490,000 in funding to launch the project, which began soliciting donations and other funding a few years ago.

She said the city has agreed to take over operations and maintenance of the structure when it’s completed. Other work completed so far includes architect’s renderings, title work and a draft of a survey.

“We could bid in the spring and start construction in the fall after the market (closes),” she said.

According to figures provided by the LSA committee, the project has a total of $358,624 committed, but as committee Chairman Jeff Kotula noted it has also already received $250,000 from LSA in previous years.

Ewing said her group is also applying for a $200,000 grant from the county’s tourism fund, and if it receives them, its request for the additional LSA funds would be reduced.

“We can’t start construction until all of the construction funding is received,” she said following the presentation.

The board also heard a request from Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which wants to rehabilitate the former YWCA at 42 W. Maiden St. for disability services and training at the site, which would also serve as the group’s headquarters.

TRIPIL has spent $500,000 to buy the building, and has several million dollars in commitments toward the project, which would cost about $8.9 million to complete. The organization is seeking $1 million in LSA funding.

Ken Kulak, architect for the project, said the group wants to start work on the first phase of the two-phase project, which would rehabilitate the front of the building, install offices, an elevator and improvements to the lobby.

“We would have services for the public by phase two,” he said. TRIPIL works out of its current building at 69 E. Beau St., where it is seeking a buyer.

Among other projects presented Wednesday were:

• A request from Starpointe business park in Hanover Township for $350,000 to help it construct a $6.9 million, 100,000-square-foot flex building;

• And a $230,000 request from Community Action Southwest for a “Home Ownership Center” to enable the social services agency to expand its services to help people purchase first-time homes as well as help other homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Executive Director Darlene Bigler said the center would function as a “one-stop shop,” providing education and assistance.

She noted that last year, the agency helped 67 families buy their first home, which equated to about $6 million in purchases in the county.

A total of 71 groups submitted $22.2 million in funding request from the LSA program, which is administered by the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County. The money comes from 2013 gambling revenue at The Meadows, and goes toward economic and community development projects countywide.

Each group must have secured funding from other sources that equals or exceeds their request.

The $22 million requested in the current applications is well above the $6 million that is available this year.

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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