North Versailles code officer promotes township

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Allen Wagner of North Versailles has led a multifaceted life as a steel worker, lifeguard and swim instructor, physical education teacher, college professor and, now, code enforcement officer for North Versailles.

In addition, he is actively involved in trying to get new businesses and industries into the township.

Mr. Wagner was involved in efforts to get the Express Scripts company to stay in North Versailles. That didn’t work out, but a smaller business is about to move into a different space in the township. Mr. Wagner said an announcement will be made after plans are finalized.

The Express Scripts building along Route 30 near Kings Restaurant will be vacant after employees move to a new building in North Huntingdon. Mr. Wagner said the building is set up to be a call center, so another call center company could move into it.

He is ready to sell the amenities of North Versailles to any interested business or factory owner.

“We will negotiate a five- to 10-year tax abatement program for the township, school district and the county” for new developers and business owners, he said.

In addition, Mr. Wagner said, some types of businesses can get a two-year abatement on the township’s business privilege tax.

There are 178 acres near Route 30 that can be developed in addition to the former Eastland Mall property and other sites, he said.

Mr. Wagner said he never thought he would be involved in code enforcement. 

After high school, he worked for two summers at the former Firth-Sterling Steel Co. in McKeesport to earn money for college.

The second summer in the steel mill, he also worked as a substitute lifeguard at the former Colonial Manor Club, located where the Stratigos Banquet Hall in North Huntingdon is now. The third summer, the owner of the Colonial Manor Club promoted him to full-time pool manager.

Shortly after 1972, Mr. Wagner was among a group of lifeguards from all over the country invited by the American Red Cross to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to write the first lifeguard textbook for the Red Cross. The lifeguards wrote the first edition, and Mr. Wagner’s name is on it.

His master’s thesis in 1972 asserted that lifeguards should be taught CPR, he said, a novel concept at the time. Before that, CPR was not routinely performed by lay people but only by doctors and nurses, he said.

“Once we made that presentation to the American Red Cross and American Medical Association, they permitted it. It was an outcome of Colorado Springs,” he said.

He said Peter Safar of Pittsburgh, whom he calls the “father of CPR” and who offered some of the first training in it, is one of his heroes.

Later, Mr. Wagner served as an ambulance technician. “There were no such things as paramedics in the 1960s,” he said.

Then, he became a physical education teacher at East Allegheny High School. During his 37-year career there, he also served as an athletic trainer and as head of the department of health and physical education.

He worked for the district as a guidance counselor for the last years of his career there.

During that time, Mr. Wagner also was an adjunct professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania during the summers for 20 years. While there, he got summer scholarships for his East Allegheny students to attend the IUP Aquatic School, he said, where the students were able to take courses in advanced first aid, CPR, lifeguarding and water safety instruction.

One of his former students, Mary Ann Bowming, developed a drowning-prevention program in San Diego, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, which has since gone national, he said.

Two other former students, Jeff and Corinne Krafts, own Valley Pool in North Versailles.

Developers and business and factory owners can reach Mr. Wagner at arw4nvt@verizon.net or 412-855-1934.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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