Big plans for Westmoreland outlined at annual State of County luncheon

in Local News

Source: Trib Live

After a public squabble at their first voting meeting of the year, Westmoreland County commissioners got together for lunch Thursday to outline an ambitious agenda for 2020 that includes revitalizing the Mon Valley, potentially adding more flights to and from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport and increasing internet capability.

Commissioners Sean Kertes, Doug Chew and Gina Cerilli spoke to more than 400 business and community leaders at the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the County luncheon at the Greensburg Ramada. They discussed their priorities for the year and how those agendas are part of what they said will be a continued effort to increase Westmoreland’s population through job growth and quality of life enhancements.

Cerilli focused on transportation improvements, such as an $11 million project to widen the airport’s runway scheduled to begin in September.

“It will allow the airport to expand service with Spirit Airlines and bring in new carriers to service other hubs and destinations,” Cerilli said.

She touted large and small transportation projects such as continued construction of the $2.2 billion Mon Valley Expressway to link the eastern suburbs, including those in Westmoreland County, with Pittsburgh International Airport. She also talked about the creation of a new entrance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Route 130 in Penn Township as improving access to and from Westmoreland County.

“I’m confident the new board (of commissioners) will continue to work together to grow our infrastructure in the next four years,” Cerilli said.

Chew, who took office this week, said he already has been impressed with the commitment of county workers. He praised emergency personnel and first responders for their efforts last weekend in dealing with the deadly turnpike crash that killed five people and sent 55 others to local hospitals as well as a separate incident on Interstate 70 that killed a Rostraver paramedic supervisor.

Chew also said a study expected to start this month to assess the county’s internet needs will be important for future growth. The $100,000 study, paid for from a $50,000 grant and contributions from eight participating counties, is expected to be finished this summer and identify where and how high-speed internet access can be expanded.

“The internet is essential, and it’s no longer a luxury,” Chew said. “High-speed bandwidth … will benefit Westmoreland County. It will bring more people in to Westmoreland County to live and work.”

Kertes, who like Chew is a new commissioner, said his focus this year will the implementation of a proposed three-county plan to revitalize the Mon Valley region. Kertes, who spent the last four years as chief of staff to Commissioner Charles Anderson, said a regional approach with Fayette and Washington counties will enable better access to grant funds and a more focused plan for the region.

“The regional aspect of the plan will help us find manufacturers and industry leaders to rehabilitate the region, blocks and waterfront development,” Kertes said.

He also pointed to upgrades at county parks, including the projected opening this year of two new giant slides at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant, which will help raise the county’s profile.

Kertes, the board of commissioners’ new chairman, said he wants to remove politics from county governing.

“Over the next four years, my goal is to promote ‘Do your job.’ We are not here to talk about political things, to talk to our base. The campaign is over,” Kertes said. “We govern all of Westmoreland County for the next four years.”