Category: Local News

School Closings Cause Community Concerns

Armstrong School District board directors listen to questions by Ford City Resident and Planning Commission member Tyson Klukan during a public hearing on the futures of Ford City and Kittanning secondary schools after their closure in June.

by Jonathan Weaver

Armstrong Junior-Senior High will open this fall, and Ford City Junior-Senior High, Kittanning Junior High and Kittanning Senior High will close in about five months.

But, middle Armstrong County’s economic future might depend on what happens to the three schools after they close.

During an Armstrong School District public hearing on the topic last night, Solicitor (and moderator) Lee Price said all suggestions are welcome.

“If anybody has any suggestions or proposals on what should occur with these three properties, they’re welcome to submit them in writing to the school board,” Price said. “I know that they’re open to any suggestions about what should be done. There has been no decision to tear down any building.”

Andrew Tylinski lives across from the current Ford City Junior-Senior High parking lot.

“I just hope that somebody – whether in the community or the (school) board can come up with some sort of idea to reuse the buildings or just get rid of it,” Tylinski said. “My biggest fear is that it will become a blighted property – a total menace to the town and the people around it.”

Board Director Paul Lobby – a Ford City graduate – said developers have expressed interest in the property since being designed Keystone Opportunity Zones and offering tax relief.

“We, along with the County, Planning Commission, Industrial Development, Senator White, have been active trying to do something that will turn these facilities into something productive for the community,” Lobby said.

Ford City Planning Commission Member Tyson Klukan asked the cost to tear down the schools. While he waits for a written response to that and other questions, he and other members hope for a meeting with county or school officials.

“We want to see economic development in Ford City and the county alone. It’s not just about Ford City – it’s about the region,” Klukan said. “It’s going to take all of us together to get a solid, concrete plan and move forward.”

Ford City Borough Manager Eden Ratliff also read some questions from Mayor Marc Mantini, including board directors’ thoughts on what can be done with the existing buildings

After a 10 minute recess due to an incorrect starting time listed in another publication Wednesday, Ford City Councilman Eugene Banks read a request from a resident proposing one of the buildings being converted into a community college or a learning center – such as the Bidwell Cultural and Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Banks’ sons – Eugene, Jr. and Jonathan – attended courses at the training center and studied culinary and security, respectively.

“And they have courses you don’t see in a normal college – like glassblowing and dog grooming,” Banks said.

Kittanning Junior High Principal Kirk Lorigan – a Kittanning High graduate who attended the meeting with fellow principals James Rummel at Kittanning Senior High and Michael Cominos of Ford City – said, while faculty and staff are thinking about the transition and students have received River Hawks T-shirts, their main focus remains the next five months.

“A lot of our students at Kittanning Junior High are excited about the upcoming possibilities. We all have a lot of changes we’re going to see – the job as junior high principal is going to be similar, but any time there’s a new building, there are new responsibilities, new people to get to know – but ultimately, the students will be resilient, and the teachers will certainly do everything that is needed to so those kids can learn. That’s what it’s all about,” Lorigan said.

More than a dozen residents attended the public hearing at Lenape Elementary last night – about equal to the number of school district administrators, school board directors and principals.

Transit Technology Upgrade Already Proving Efficient

Maher-Duessel CPA Principal Brian McCall summarizes the Pittsburgh firm’s findings with Town and Country Transit board representatives yesterday afternoon.

 by Jonathan Weaver

The new real-time transportation technology implemented by Town and Country Transit in Kittanning last month is working well so far with employees and customers.

Town and Country Transit General Manager Patti Lynn Baker said nearly 250 trips were scheduled the day the technology went “live” December 10 – the most in a day in several years.

“It’s been an interesting experience, but well-worth the work,” Baker said. “We’ve made a lot of changes, really buckled down on the spending and clamped down on the budget as much as we could – I think the area we were missing was the efficiency in the scheduling, and I think this is the missing piece of the puzzle.

“We still have to tweak it – there are still improvements and things we have to learn to best manipulate the software to make it meet our customers’ needs as well as those of the agency since we haven’t been using it that long – but I think there’s a lot of good that can come out of this.”

She identified greater efficiency already in revenue miles, operator hours and average trip distance.

EcoLane project managers will return on-site in February for additional training.

EcoLane Technical Project Managers Jim Stec and Yolanda Hadeed were already on-site at the Kittanning headquarters for about three weeks.

“EcoLane is a dynamic software – how we always scheduled before has been static, with the schedule being made the day before and what is printed on the paper is done,” Baker said in December. “EcoLane will make the trips fluid, and as there are cancellations or no-shows, etc. trips will move to the nearest vehicle.”

“Now, (dispatchers) actually are going to be entering your reservation into the software while you’re on the phone – so not only will they be able to tell you what your co-pay will be, they’ll also be able to tell you what time your pick-up will be,” Baker said.

Customers are usually called about their next-day reservation by mid-afternoon

RouteMatch technology – the former software used – had been utilized for about eight years.

Town and Country Transit was the 19th agency to implement the technology for shared ridership in the state of Pennsylvania

In other news, the fiscal year audit has been deemed “clean” by a Pittsburgh Certified Public Accounting firm.

Maher-Duessel Principal Brian McCall reported no findings were found in the annual fiscal year audit –which spans July 2013 through June 30, 2014 – and that it is classified as a “clean” audit.

“You’ve really come pretty-far over the past couple years in dealing with those funding cuts that everyone across the state has had to deal with,” McCall told board members.

The report given to the five municipality representatives at their first calendar year meeting yesterday was dated December 22, 2014 and submitted to PennDOT for review. It indicates, among other things, that between fiscal years 2013 and 2014, system-wide expenses decreased more than $109,000.

Finance Committee Chair David Stewart (representing East Franklin Township) withheld comment until fellow board members reviewed the audit report.

Board directors also met in executive session to review personnel issues.