Commissioners voting Thursday on $6.2 million in LSA projects

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Anyone who depends on the bus route known as the Washington County Transportation Authority’s Freedom Line to get to work or go shopping may be able to breathe a sigh of relief.


State and federal funding, due to run out June 30, appears more likely to continue because the service is on track to receive $51,044 this year from the Local Share Account.


The Washington County commissioners are expected today to put their seal of approval on replacement of two buses and 30 other LSA projects totaling $6.2 million from revenues generated by gamblers at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.


The total amount is the smallest since the inception of local share distribution in 2008. Since The Meadows opened its casino in June 2007, there has been a proliferation of gambling venues in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, cutting into the amount of money wagered at the Washington County facility.


Sheila Gombita, executive director of the transportation authority, said Wednesday, “Our Freedom Line demonstration period ends after this fiscal year. I cannot leverage the state and federal portion of funding without a local match.”


The $51,044 also will be used to mark stops and place bus shelters along the Freedom Line’s fixed route between Washington and McDonald via Racetrack Road and Pike Street in Canonsburg.


The authority purchased a pair of 5-year-old, 24-passenger buses from York County in 2011. As of the end of December, one had 218,000 miles on its odometer, while the other had racked up 196,000. Replacements will be new vehicles.


Ridership increased 19 percent from July to December 2013, compared with the same period in 2012.


Although the authority eliminated a stop in the Meadowbrook housing plan in North Strabane Township, substituting stops at Tanger Outlets and along Pike Street has increased ridership.


“Those numbers are far greater than what we were getting at the Meadowbrook stop,” Gombita said. Riders include those who work at Tanger Outlets.


“It’s not just shoppers, it’s jobs, also,” she said shortly after learning that the Freedom Line made the list that the Local Share Account committee was recommending to the commissioners.


The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, source of the revenue for the Local Share Account, also is a stop along the Freedom Line.


The largest single amount proposed for any governmental or nongovernmental organization is $500,000. Projects in that monetary category include Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living Southwestern Pennsylvania Disability Services, for its training headquarters and YWCA rehabilitation on West Maiden Street in Washington, and three sewer projects: Mon Valley Sewage Authority separation of storm water and sewage; Authority of the Borough of Charleroi’s Speers-Dunlevy wet-weather control project; and Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority’s Malden water storage tank replacement.


The board will forward the list to the state Department of Community and Economic Development for final approval by mid-year. All but a handful of projects over the years have gotten approval from the state.


The Freedom Line and proposed sewer and water projects total $3.5 million. Another transportation project in the “public interest” category is the second phase of construction of the Washington City Transit intermodal transportation facility on East Chestnut Street, which is recommended for $100,000.


Also in this category is $94,336 for illegal dump site removal and abatement across the county.


Heidi Pedicone, director of programs for the Greensburg-based Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful agency, said Wednesday that her organization identified 129 illegal dumps in Washington County and, with the help of those assigned by the courts to perform community improvement tasks through the Furlough Into Service program, has been plugging away. Removed from the county since April 2011 have been 261,000 pounds of trash and 3,200 tires.


Washington County has one of eight surveillance cameras across the state used to catch those fouling the countryside. The cameras, which operate even in inclement weather, are designed to provide evidence used to prosecute offenders.


Among the projects in the “community improvement” category, totaling $1.3 million, is another phase of the Monongahela Aquatorium restoration and expansion project.


Architect Ken Kulak said this phase of the project aims to give the disabled access to lower-level boat docks from the upper level of the open-air riverside auditorium.


Aquatorium Innovations Inc., through its website, www.monaquatorium.org, will soon be announcing a second summer concert series in the refurbished venue.


“This should really seal the project up for us,” Kulak said. The master plan for the aquatorium is being reworked, and a proposed skate park may be placed in another part of the town.


The job-training category has two recipients recommended for funding: $300,000 for the educational manufacturing complex of Western Area Career and Technology Center; and $399,363 for the Work-Certified Academy of Washington-Greene County Job Training Agency Inc.


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