Construction delayed on Latrobe campus of Westmoreland County Community College

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Construction on the new Latrobe campus of Westmoreland County Community College has been delayed by harsh weather and other factors.

At the end of June, college officials estimated the campus would be completed this summer. Then winter arrived.

Rihaan Gangat, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, said 61.6 inches of snow have fallen so far this winter, in contrast to the average 41.9-inch winter snowfall. He said January of this year was the 16th coldest January since record keeping began in 1871.

Anna Marie Palatella, director of public relations for the college, said the campus is now expected to be substantially completed by October and to open in January.

Another source of delay, she said, was the value engineering process, in which the Design 3 company of Monroeville reviewed plans from architects L.R. Kimball of Ebensburg and from contractors, and suggested ways to make construction more cost effective.

It took a few weeks for the architect to submit revised drawings to the contractors, and another couple of weeks for contractors to submit plans to the school, she said.

Ms. Palatella said last week that rough grading was finished at the site and that the school’s perimeter foundations were 90 percent complete. Interior foundation work is in progress, and steel is being fabricated for the walls.

She said erection of the school’s steel framework is scheduled for April.

While construction is going on, students can still take classes at the Laurel Campus, across Loyalhanna Creek from Latrobe. The new campus is being built in downtown Latrobe.

Alex Graziani, Latrobe city manager, is looking forward to seeing the college downtown.

“It will add energy to the central business district as students come and go to classes,” he said.

Westmoreland County commissioners and the college's board of trustees easily could have chosen a suburban location for the new campus, he said. “We’re thrilled they’ve kept it here,” he said.

Ms. Palatella said the Laurel Campus can accommodate between 400 and 450 students. “We’re looking for an incremental increase over time at Latrobe to about 500 [students] per semester,” she said.

According to a press release issued last summer, the $8.4 million campus will include general and computer classrooms, computer and science labs, offices, student study areas and multipurpose areas for community activities.

Ms. Palatella said construction of the new campus will allow the college to expand course offerings in health care. 

There will be lab facilities for phlebotomy, clinical lab work and medical assisting classes, she said. Students will be able to take some prerequisites for nursing at the Latrobe campus, then take nursing courses at the college's campuses in Youngwood and Indiana and Greene counties.

The college will be paid for, in part, with a $7 million bond issue, Ms. Palatella said. The Pennsylvania Department of Education will contribute $3.5 million toward the bonds, and the college will contribute an additional $3.5 million from the school's capital project reserve fund.

The Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation also contributed a $500,000 grant for construction, and additional funds came from the college’s recent capital campaign, Ms. Palatella said.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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