Let’s Hook up!

Let’s Hook Up!

Now that a Westmoreland County recreational trail has reached the northern border of Fayette; time has come to connect the dots! With the recent completion of the Scottdale Borough intercommunity trail a vital link to the Great Allegheny Passage is at hand, a mire 4 miles in the dirt. According to a recent “On to Connellsville” 62-page study, just a handful of private property owners, the sewage authority, and the governing bodies of our local elected state, county, and municipalities can make it happen. Not only would it address recreational interests of both counties but create awesome educational and historical perspectives for Heritage travelers. The Northern Fayette’s Morgan Valley where Galley Run bisects is a treasure trove in regard to the history of America. It is this narrow hollow which leads to the mighty Yough River that transpired Braddock’s Road, the early mines of Frick, and Overholt’s whiskey distilleries that tell tales of a thriving Faywest. Sites of historical cemeteries, a grist mill, and circa 1880 stone arched bridge highlight the path to a planned elevated viaduct crossing to the Yough River Trail. Once completed this progressive endeavor will be a positive impact to Southwestern Pennsylvania residents and businesses alike.

Words of Wisdom from the Private Sector

Sometimes government gets ahead of itself, ventures into complacency and creates pitfalls that affect future prosperity for all of us. It is no more evident than in the Faywest area where towns and townships regulate or at times fail to regulate growth cycles. This impacts in two ways effecting those who want change and those that don’t. Challenge of attempts to please everybody result in quagmire with nothing getting done. Many times it’s the makeup of elected government officials that has the greatest influence on this phenomenon. 

Why is that? Could it be that private sector leadership in government is almost nonexistent in these communities? Government must adhere to at least a resemblance of a business plan. Business plans breed success, just ask any owner of a thriving endeavor. Thus the discussed issue raises its ugly head when necessary business minded individuals are too preoccupied with their work, to be a politician. Not to say there hasn’t been successful electoral who have never owned and operated as a sole proprietor. This is to say “Words of Wisdom from the Private Sector” could go a long way to help create that sought after prosperity. 

Once again…Why is that? Well successful businesses are a benchmark to a thriving community, a thriving business sector entices homeowners which in turn is a magnet to healthy amounts of professionals and industrialists who invest their monies into upstarts. It becomes the building blocks for urban renewal, growth, and yes..Prosperity. Much of what is needed throughout the Faywest. One must also draw on the positives of the communities rather than dwell on lost opportunities. Let the previous failures be a learning tool for the future. Cast these positives into the business plan highlighting and improving but above all marketing what you have, to hang your hat on! 

History intertwined with progressive innovations for the millennial and X- generations along with conveniences and necessities for all, could be a start. Developing a storyline, that sounds the trumpet to lure and welcome Heritage travelers while satisfying longtime community dwellers will present additional hurdles but by engaging both sides into discussion enables fresh ideas, desires, needs, and demands to be sorted out. 

For a positive end result, only those with a genuine passion for progress will attempt, work, and strive to make their communities better. Engaging the private sector develops patronage, trust, and loyalty among the key players in community restoration. Representation of the that private sector needs to be heard before, during, and after the business plan commences. Sometimes what matters most is a common sense approach to a happy ending…

Sheetz stamps an exclamation point!

The departure of Sheetz from downtown Scottdale stamps an exclamation point to the status of what was once the richest town per capita in America. Yes, unfortunately the ! Point underlines the negative state of affairs for the town whose namesake exemplified leadership. Formerly Fountain Mills, the Borough was renamed in 1874 to credit the traits of one, Colonel Thomas Scott, that of a progressive thinking, spirited, and enterprising innovative mind who provided business leadership during the 19th century. The lack of all the aforementioned has resulted in a community that teeters on the edge of extinction. Sure there are magnificent Victorian homes, quaint neighborhoods, well kept residences, manicured lawns, abundance of parks, trails, and picturesque landscape of the Chestnut Ridge but sadly the once thriving business district has slowly melted away. The ! Point draws attention to the dozen & a half, vacated commercial structures now void of activity, falling into disrepair. Let’s count them all by the former tenants, starting with the most active of all…Sheetz, Family Dollar, Cossel’s Meat Market, Scottdale Pharmacy, Stella’s Cleaning, Marge Bradley Appliance, Scottdale Bank & Trust, Mark IV, Grimm Insurance, Gatti Gym, Scottdale Eagles, Pritts Feed Mill, Westmor Insurance, Aumer’s Meat Market, Scottdale Community Pool, along with Smitty’s and Nevi’s Barber Shops. May have missed a few but point made. More to come? possibly…but what’s needed is a comprehensive plan (already on the books) to begin reparation. Now that the Scottdale business district is at the bottom of the bucket…the time has arrived to fill it! First and foremost is “God Forbid” a structured zoning code to rehabilitate existing storefronts and parking build-outs thus creating an ambiance of historical enlightenment, one that Scott would be proud of! Future development would be required to adhere to strict enforcement providing a future Street-scape for the renowned landmark community of years ago. A centralized “Welcome Center” at the replicated Train Station could serve to educate new visitors and draw on the historical home walking tour as an enticing incentive to shopping downtown. Maybe bring back the tourist train, above all the Colonel Thomas Scott’s of today, our community leaders of Borough Council, of the Chamber of Commerce, and of the Community Civic & Industrial Association need to sit down & put their heads together… Their leadership is crucial to putting a plan in place that will lure new businesses and Heritage travelers to Scottdale. No better time to commence. Starting now…It can be done…it should be done…or it will be done…Forever!

A Greedy Old Cemetery

No one likes a greedy old cemetery especially if you are paying dearly for that last piece of real estate you don’t want to use. The one in question was established over 130 years ago to serve as the final resting place for Scottdale community residents upon their demise. Yes, credit is deserved where credit is due; so be it that the grass is normally manicured on a regular basis and that road work has been accomplished, all pertinent duties of perpetual care. Beyond that with an endowment that just broke the $2 million dollar mark, wouldn’t it be justifiable to have a full-time caretaker, security to prevent granite stones from being toppled, and thievery of grave decorations. Additionally, thoughts lend to amenities such as regular garbage pickup to allow for cleanup of deceased flowers, water service for those who wish to give a drink to their plantings, and a public rest room facility to serve visitors and mourners. Modern era cameras, dusk to dawn lighting, and utility hookups for the aforementioned ideas could bode well. But as it is, nary an effort to offer these conveniences. Instead, the most progressive decisions have been to raise the grave preparation fees 44% and access additional costs for foundation installations that penalize those who have prepaid for such services and products. Lack of management oversight has allowed for offensive type monuments such as a parking meter cemented into a granite base that reàds “Expired!” along with misinterruptation of grave space maps and corner markers resulting in burials that required unnecessary disinterments. All of which could have been prevented with the hiring of a full-time superintendent. Those who have accepted the vested duties of entrustment have literally shirked their responsibilities and the lone part-time under paid caretaker has been hogtied with duties he can’t perform adequately. Complaints and suggestions fall on deaf ears while the mindset of those in charge reek  idiotoctacy. For those who lie in solemn dignity, voices from the past cry out for attention…

Ready or Not Here it Comes…

Residents of the Route 119 corridor that lies in East Huntingdon Township situated between the former SONY plant and the new bridge over Jacobs Creek, the County border, had better be ready for a vast metamorphosis in the form of a progressive storm that is heading your way! One only has to speculate on the heels of a new 119-819 interchange, restoration of the 119 roadway, and construction of a modern sewage plant at Old Meadow that total transformation is just around the corner. Call it what you want but once completed the aforementioned projects are a Kickstarter to emminent residential, commercial, and industrial expansion for sleepy old East Huntingdon. Void of any zoning, the Township could become a potential target for in opportune ventures as the needed infrastructure required had been nonexistent to this point in time. As with any tsunami, preparations and advance warnings are the key to a successful response. The advance warning part is evident but the prep part is definitely in question. We are not, let me repeat…We are not ready for this kind of major overhaul thus a suggestion may be to, fasten your seatbelt an extra notch. Our pristine area is in the crosshairs of developers just as it was years ago when the waste dump was located over the hill from the regional education facilities. Has anyone viewed that landfill area recently? Probably not because it is behind a 8 foot high metal fence with rolled barb wire…hmmm! It has grown from a small patch garbage dump to an incredible silent giant that someday will rear its ugly head. Many proponents voiced their displeasure at that time to dissuade the project but it happened anyhow due to the right to utilize ones own property however wished. We could have learned a lesson from our forefathers, those local prominent individuals who worked tirelessly on zoning issues for the Township many moons ago, developed a plan after years of promigation, held hearings and meetings, finally presented the land usage restrictions for passage, and had it trashed by a powerful movement of non-progressives. Yes, an all out effort that consisted of boxes and boxes of meeting minutes, specified plans, maps, documented testimony, public input, and governmental oversight was literally dumped in the trash, how synonymous! So what do we do now, ahead of the wave, to assure that an effort is made to prevent a reoccurrence? That my friend, my local neighbor is up to you…

Scottdale’s Boondoggle

Oddly enough the highlight topic at a local historical society’s parlor talk recently dealt with the verbiage “cement city”! The term could properly be applied to three projects meant to revitalize the neighboring Borough of Scottdale where approximately $4 million dollars of taxpayer grant monies was applied to “enhance” the aesthetics of the community while additionally managing storm water runoff. First off, complete replacement of sidewalk and accompanying walkways surrounding the Gazebo centerpiece of the downtown was undertaken to buffer its serene atmosphere enabling summer concert series, Fall Festival activities, and private weddings to be held without getting your feet wet. Surely the extreme amount of H2O from the sky over the past years must have contributed to this rocket-science decision to replace the previous unsuitable surface? When questioned as to why such a huge investment was made, one Borough official stated that the project was necessary to elieviate the problem of flooding that occurs in an adjacent Bank’s basement each time the heavens open up. Follow up questioning of Bank officials found no such evidence of any water problem, ever! Makes you wonder a bit, eh? Turning our attention to the next major catastrophe, the build-out of parking spaces along the Avenues of Pittsburgh, Spring & Centennial Way that has provided many local auto body repair businesses a huge surge in appointments while stressing insurance companies with an upshoot of claims. Nary a week goes by that a gathering of police cars, Borough workers, and tow trucks occur along the Avenues & Way to assist an impaled auto, suspended in mid-air, on the aforementioned curbs as various pieces of fiberglass undercarriages litter the area along with gouged and scraped concrete. The perennial plantings utilized as designated greenspace have become an additional nightmare, requiring weeding & maintenance to survive the harsh winters and hot summers. Just wait till the “No Parking” signs are erected along the RiteAid side of Centennial Way! Finally, as an epitaph to this writing, the “much needed” restoration of Graft Alley where $1.5 million was spent deterring our local watershed from becoming overwhelmed. Yes, decorative brick inlay and a roundabout are now the highlight feature of a project that almost didn’t occur, due to over-budget estimates. Originally planned closure of access to and from Pittsburgh Street was trashed where a “pedestrian only” walkway had been penciled in. Curbed green space planting areas now conveniently serve as a collection area for bagged trash & empty cardboard boxes on a weekly basis from various businesses and residences. These “Boondoggle” travesties give true meaning to the concrete enlightenments to Scottdale, Pennsylvania …permeable that is!

A Tear from Thomas Scott’s Eye!

The vivid image of the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad standing on the train station platform circa February 4, 1874 was a striking reminder of the influence one man brought to the town of Fountain Mills. It was on that day that the richest town per capita in the United States was renamed “Scottdale” in honor of Thomas Scott, whose stature was recognized as the catalyst for prosperity to the community. Next to him was a young lad, taken under the wing by his mentor, nurtured and guided to eventually become one of the wealthiest human beings on the planet. Yes, the humble beginning of Andrew Carnegie’s rise to prominence as well as the town’s insurgence was attributed to Scott as the Railroad grew westward. Pullman cars would be needed to supply the Company’s expansion thus with a small investment on Scott’s insider trading tip, Carnegie’s vast financial future was cemented in the annals of history. One could not fathom that the vintage photograph of the twosome taken that day, on a wooden rail stop platform, would transcend an image of utter accomplishment nearly a century and a half later. Today as we reflect, the site bears much more attributes than the town’s leaders have given it. Over 25 years ago the community saw fit to resurrect and rebuild the old Scottdale Train Station as a reminder of the impact Scott’s railroad played in the heritage of the Borough. Private and public monies were raised through an agressive solicitation effort as volunteer labor and donated materials brought about the reality of the project. One would think this Landmark would serve as the foundation for storytelling or possibly a “welcome center” as it was intended, to travelers  beconning knowledge of the rich years past. No, if Colonel Thomas Scott, a highly decorated Civil War veteran and the namesake of Scottdale, Pennsylvania were to ride back into town in the modern era, a tear would be distinctly noticed welling in his eye as the sight of an utterly disdained unkept rail yard would greet the town’s protege. What a shame…

Who tore down Scottdale?

      Anyone who is old enough to remember or has seen vintage photographs of the downtown Borough of  Scottdale only has to ponder the answer to the question, whose idea was it to tear down a large portion of a town center once deemed the richest town per capita in the United States. Many elder residents can talk for hours on end, of the hustle activity and crowded sidewalks along the main avenues of Broadway & Pittsburgh Streets as restaurants, a bowling alley, clothing shops, and even a record den (Tommy James & The Shondells recorded there) dotted the retail business strip. Those can also assert to the many single family homes and businesses, public service buildings and organizational clubs that made up the geographic area in question. In the mid 1960’s, all that stood, with the exception of the Scottdale YMCA, was bought up through eminent domain as residents and businesses alike were served eviction notices, and then as an epitaph a large crane wrecking ball erased nearly a century of structures that housed over seventy property tax paying entities. Talk about analating the heart of a community, surely as grandiose an undertaking that it was, presumption was, a well laid plan was eminent. Commercial zoning changes were instituted in high anticipation of a renewed business development that would save and salvage the downtrodden borough. The Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority (WCRA) had been leading the effort, working alongside with elected Scottdale Council officials to fulfill promises of an inter-community mall anchored by a new KMart retail establishment along with other various suitors that were supposedly inked to the deal. Months became years as the vacant flat land laid dormant. Both KMart and Fishers Big Wheel broke ground alright, but not in Scottdale, establishing the first of many retail sites at the Crossroads of Routes 119 & 819 in the Municipality of East Huntingdon Township, some 2 miles to the east of Borough lines! Very few of the commercial surveyed parcels in Scottdale were sold. Only two banks (one that moved across the street), one drug store, a tax office (how coincidental), a gazebo, public parking lots, and a gas station materialized. The last remaining lot adjacent to the YMCA had to be re-zoned residential in order to be utilized as senior living apartments. Wow, what an urbanized renewal project it was! Maybe, just by chance someone behind a WCRA office desk in Greensburg had their tie tied too tight and accidentally shut off the flow of blood to their cerebral cortex enabling the brain fart called Scottdale’s Revitalization Plan to be realized. Assuming that some sort of development eventually would come to fruition, it would stand to reason, any newly built structures would be required to conform to the quaint assetics of the community…but no, neither was there a contingency plan nor any building codes established to insure historical perpetuality. Thus the “anchor” drug store was constructed entirely of gray concrete cinder block highlighted by bright neon lettering. Furthermore, additional  business district structures were built including an auto parts store, dollar store, office supply, and a private investigative office, all constructed of same aesthetics thus concluding the unsightly unbanization nightmare…