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IRWIN

Settlement reached with former police chief

Council last week approved a settlement agreement with former police Chief Joseph Pocsatko, whom council fired during a special meeting Jan. 17.

Under the agreement, Mr. Pocsatko was reinstated as chief and allowed to tender his resignation. Borough officials also will not oppose any application by Mr. Pocsatko for unemployment compensation under the settlement agreement.

Solicitor Todd Turin said Mr. Pocsatko did not receive any money as part of the settlement.

Mr. Turin said Mr. Pocsatko has signed the settlement agreement, and council will vote to accept his resignation either at next month's regular meeting or at a special meeting.

Under the agreement, Mr. Pocsatko agreed to withdraw his pending request to the Irwin Civil Service Commission for a hearing to appeal the firing decision by council.

• Council voted last week to have borough engineer Lucien Bove prepare cost estimates for repairs to the First Street Bridge and the Fairwood Drive Bridge.

The Fairwood Drive Bridge crosses a creek from Route 30 toward the Villages of Easton apartment complex. The First Street Bridge crosses Tinkers Run into North Huntingdon by the Irwin Borough maintenance building.

The First Street Bridge has been closed for years.

• Council also voted to sign a letter accepting $175,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds that will be issued by the Westmoreland County Department of Planning.

Engineer Lucien Bove said the money will be used to replace sidewalks from the rear of Queen of Angels School along Pennsylvania Avenue to Chestnut Street.

GREATER LATROBE SCHOOLS

Foundation formed to raise funds for district

The Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation is a new independent nonprofit that will work to provide philanthropic opportunities for individuals, organizations and businesses to support Greater Latrobe School District students beyond conventional public funding.

The foundation, announced last week, is a collaboration of district and business leaders and aims to raise $3 million for projects including technology integration in K-12 classrooms; development of an athletic and wellness complex at the junior/senior high school campus; and the renovation of the entrance to the junior high.

Maryann White, a CPA with Kelly, Sparber, White and Associates, is foundation president and will lead a volunteer board of parents, alumni and civic and business leaders.

Many communities are forming education foundations to meet challenges in public education funding. The Pennsylvania Education Foundation said the state has 230 such foundations and the country has 5,000. Details: 724-539-4220 or www.glpief.org.

UNITY

Survey work starts for new safety building

Contractors began survey work last week for a $2.2 million public safety building to be built at the southern end of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport.

Gabe Monzo, executive director for the Westmoreland Airport Authority, said the building will be the operational base for disaster and emergency response for Region 13, which covers 13 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"We've been working on this for 25 years," he said. "This will benefit the entire region."

Equipment worth about $7 million, such as hazardous materials trucks and ambulances that are currently stored at other locations in the county, will be housed in the new, one-story building. It will contain garages for vehicles and storage space for generators, barricades and other equipment for floods or disasters.

"It will be in a secure building protected 24/7," Mr. Monzo said.

The building also will serve as a backup to the county's 911 emergency center along Donohoe Road in Hempfield. And it will be used as a training center for local emergency responders, such as firefighters and paramedics, Mr. Monzo said.

The county has received a $612,000 state Bureau of Aviation grant, a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and an $800,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation for the new building.

The airport authority awarded contracts for the building in January.

WESTMORELAND COUNTY

Contractors hired for defender's office

Westmoreland County commissioners have approved contracts with 10 private attorneys to handle criminal court cases that a public defender cannot because the office is representing another defendant in the case.

The lawyers selected were: Tim Andrews, Brian Aston, Timothy Dawson, Michael DeMatt, Patricia Elliott, James Fox, Amy Keim, David Regoli, Jim Robinson and Valerie Veltri.

The attorneys will be paid $20,000 a year for representing up to 38 defendants. The attorneys will not be county employees but will be hired as independent contractors.

Court administrator Paul Kuntz said the "conflict-counsel" attorneys will begin March 1.

Previously, the county's judges appointed private attorneys on a case-by-case basis at $45 an hour, but county commissioners hope to save money with the new system.

The attorneys will work out of their private law offices and be assigned cases through the public defender's office.

Mr. Kuntz said the attorneys also can submit bills for mileage, tolls and parking.

He said the county's criminal caseload has been stable in recent years at about 5,000 cases a year. By law, the county must provide indigent defendants with an attorney, and the public defender's office has about 3,000 cases a year, he said. In 2011, 330 defendants were represented by court-appointed attorneys, and the county paid about $350,000 for those attorneys.

That total, however, also included homicide cases, and the "conflict-counsel" attorneys will not represent homicide defendants under their contract.

The newly hired defense attorneys will handle preliminary hearings at a district judge's office, Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposition cases for first-time offenders and guilty pleas.

The county also is looking at a new video conferencing computer software that would allow the attorneys to interview their clients in the county jail online from their offices.

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland


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