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Presby SeniorCare seeks traffic study, reduced speed on South Main Street

Presbyterian SeniorCare Network has asked the state Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study on South Main Street in the area of its campus.

“It’s for everyone’s safety,” said Mary McHugh Murray, senior director at the network’s Washington campus. “Our goal is to have as safe an environment as possible for our residents, visitors and team members.”

The campus is growing with Woodside Place set to open in late fall. It’s going to be a living facility specifically for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients, and will feature 36 residential rooms in the two-story building on South Main Street.

Murray said the new building sits at the top of a hill. The driveway will meet South Main Street just after a curve in the road.

“We think the nature of the campus warrants a second look at safety,” Murray said.

Presbyterian SeniorCare officials reached out to PennDOT earlier in the summer, requesting the traffic study. They want to know if there’s any way to slow down drivers in that stretch of South Main Street, whether it’s with additional signs, crosswalks or reduced speed limits, Murray said.

The current speed limit through the campus is 30 mph, but because it is a senior citizens residential campus with parking on both sides of the street and pedestrian traffic, Murray wants to see that speed reduced.

There are about 600 seniors living on campus, with visitors coming and going every day. Murray said there are about 1,000 people on campus daily.

“Almost half of the residents are independent living, and they’re walking and driving around campus,” Murray said. “I’m not sure everyone is aware of how large our campus is.”

The campus sits where North Franklin and South Strabane townships meet with the City of Washington. During a township meeting last month, Presbyterian SeniorCare Network Executive Director Glenn Delich asked South Strabane supervisors to send a letter to PennDOT in support of the traffic study, which the supervisors agreed to do.

“We really appreciate South Strabane Township’s support in taking a look at the road here,” Murray said, noting that the new Woodside Place is in South Strabane.

She hopes PennDOT will have completed the study and have recommendations by the time Woodside Place opens.

“We see ourselves as advocates for our residents,” Murray said. “We’re all about trying to enhance the quality of life for our residents, visitors and team members.”


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Monessen council renews efforts to oust Shorraw and Coles from office

Monessen council has conducted meetings for more than one year without its mayor and one of its council members.

After months of complaints and failed attempts to remove them, the remaining council members are trying another route.

During a special meeting Thursday, council unanimously passed a motion to ask state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck to file a quo warranto petition to remove Mayor Matt Shorraw and Councilman Gil Coles.

“We are taking this action because two people who were duly elected aren’t showing up and doing their job,” said Deputy Mayor and Councilman Tony Orzechowski. “And that’s making it hard for the council to keep up with the workload. Our lives have been so upended that it’s difficult to take vacations. But above all, it’s the residents of Monessen who should be furious about these no-shows.”

A quo warranto motion essentially challenges a public official’s right to hold office. It must be filed by either the state attorney general or the district attorney in the county where the municipality is located, according to Pennsylvania Code.

Such actions would be brought in common pleas court, with a judge making the ultimate decision.

Shorraw has missed meetings for 16 months, while Coles has attended only one meeting since February 2018. Both men were sworn into office in January 2018.

In May 2018, council issued a no-confidence proclamation against Shorraw, asking Gov. Tom Wolf to remove the mayor from office. Members of council sent a follow-up letter to Wolf last December. Legislation was also proposed that would amend the state Constitution so that no-show elected public officials could be removed from office.

While it passed the state House in June, there has been no action on the proposal in the state Senate. Even if it were to pass the Senate, it would have to pass through both bodies in two consecutive sessions. Then, voters would have to approve the amendment.

Last March, council adopted an ordinance providing for the assessment of reasonable fines for absences at regular or special meetings of Monessen’s council.

City Solicitor Joseph Dalfonso said the city does not have legal grounds to file the quo warranto petition for removal on its own, and must rely on the support of Peck or Shapiro to do it.

“This is a rare action, and this is something that’s not in the hands of the council,” said Dalfonso.

Councilman Lois Thomas expressed frustration with the continued absence of Shorraw and Coles.

“I don’t think I would have a job if I didn’t show up for work – even for just one week,” she said. “We have a job to do, and these absences are putting an extra workload on Tony, David and me.”

Added Councilman David Feehan, “There’s no excuse for not doing your job. I’ve been hearing from people who didn’t vote for Matt and people who did vote for Matt, and they are all disgusted.”

On Friday, Shorraw said the petition is “inappropriate in this situation.” He reiterated that he would return to meetings after certain, unspecified actions are investigated. Shorraw said he has handed over “plenty of evidence of improprieties and potential felonies” to federal authorities.

Both Shorraw and Coles have two more years left to serve in their terms.

In other business, council:

  • Voted to hire Alan Hritz, James Stoken, Dominic Faieta and Rebekah Shrader from the Certified Civil Service list as full-time police officers, contingent on passing all necessary clearances and processing of paperwork. All four officers were previously employed by the Monessen Police Department on a part-time basis.
  • Approved placing of the city’s employee health insurance lines of coverage with Engle-Hambright & Davies Inc., effective Oct. 1, 2019, and authorized the deputy mayor and city administrator to complete all required documentation.
  • Authorized WEC Engineers Inc. to obtain quotes for emergency repairs for stormwater inlets on Monongahela Street and Third Street.
  • Authorized the city administrator to advertise for a rescheduled demolition public hearing, as required for the CDBG program.

Council next meets Thursday for its regular workshop meeting.


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Census training people for 'Complete Count,' also hiring census takers

Field work in advance of the 2020 U.S. Census has turned up about 4,000 address corrections in Washington County due to new construction, demolition, changes in street names and other factors that came into play during the past 10 years, according to the Washington County Planning Commission.

Those doing address canvassing are out and about checking for correct addresses while using a clipboard and wearing a U.S. Census badge for identification.

Meanwhile, participants in the Complete Count Committee of the United States Census 2020 met Friday at the Washington County Fairgrounds in a training session aimed at teaching participants how to plan, implement and publicize the 2020 Census.

Representatives from municipalities joined in discussing promotional techniques that can be introduced during municipal activities and at municipal meetings.

Lisa Cessna, executive director of the Washington County Planning Commission, which is the liaison between the federally mandated census and Washington County government, described the session as “census 101 brainstorming. Ideally, every municipality should have have a Complete Count program.”

For the first time in its nearly 230-year history, the U.S. Census Bureau will allow people being counted to answer questions online, but that doesn’t mean the process will be totally automated.

Enumeration will also take place by mail, over the phone and in person, so Census 2020 is now hiring workers for temporary positions. In Washington County, the pay is about $16 per hour.

The census workers’ recruitment website is www.2020census.gov/jobs. Those who prefer to inquire by phone can call 1-855-JOB-2020. When prompted, enter a zip code to be routed to an area census office.

The census strives to have workers stay as close as possible to their home areas.

Census 2020 also plans to participate in local job fairs, other public events and work through local CareerLink offices.

Census day – April 1, 2020 – is less than seven months away.

The decennial census is required by the United States Constitution to determine the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes a state has. It is also used to reapportion state legislative districts, determine areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans, plan for schools and design facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly and children.

The 2010 census determined the allocation of $675 billion in federal grants and loans to tribal, state and local governments. Local governments use census information for public safety and emergency preparedness.

For every Pennsylvania resident who goes uncounted, the commonwealth estimates it will lose $2,093 annually.

In the private sector, for example, it helps potential home buyers to research demographic information about communities. Corporations use the data for market research and to aid in their determination when seeking locations for commercial enterprises.

Current answers to census questions are protected by federal law. They can only be used to produce statistics.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June blocked a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census.


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Cal U. predicts enrollment drop

CALIFORNIA – California University of Pennsylvania anticipates another drop in enrollment as it welcomes a freshman class with a higher academic profile.

The university recorded an undergraduate enrollment this month of 4,865 students.

“We’re very pleased with the academic caliber of the incoming class,” Cal U. spokeswoman Christine Kindl said. It’s the fourth consecutive year the university has increased its academic profile, she said.

The first-year students have an average high school grade-point average of 3.27 this fall, exceeding the average of 3.17 for incoming students last year, Kindl said.

Cal U. also experienced an enrollment decline last term in a trend that is happening throughout most of the State System of Higher Education, said Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, a member of the university’s council of trustees.

He said the student loan crisis is steering students away from college, while others are opting for jobs in the natural gas or trucking industries.

“It’s everyplace in the state system. Less kids are going to college,” Maggi said.