High bids force scaled-back plans at Hanna’s Town
Construction of a proposed education and visitor’s center at Historic Hanna’s Town will be scaled back after county commissioners Thursday rejected bids for the project that came in $900,000 over budget.
Commissioners said there is not enough money available to pay for the what was originally planned to be a 9,000-square-foot building to house exhibition space, education rooms and storage as well as a renovation of a century-old farmhouse on the Revolutionary War-era site that is expected to be converted into office space.
County officials along with the Westmoreland County Historical Society have for more than a decade worked to build a visitor’s center at the 18th-century era village recreation that features a replica of the region’s first courthouse structure.
The property, run by the historical society, operates as a county park.
“It’s a project we’ve been looking at for quite some time and highlights the county’s rich history. We have to find a way to maximize this asset and bring more people into Westmoreland County,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas.
Lisa Hays, president of the historical society, said construction will be financed through private donations as well as a commitment from the county to pay $250,000 toward the project over the next five years. That public contribution will come from proceeds of the 5 percent hotel room tax in Westmoreland County, commissioners said.
About $2 million was allocated toward the construction, but the low bids submitted for the job came in at more than $2.9 million.
Hays scaled back project calls for a smaller, 6,900-square-foot building. A new round of bids will be solicited in September and construction could begin this year. Additional construction to complete the original vision for the project can be completed later after additional money is raised, Hays said.
“We’ll phase in the project so we can still have the most critical operations first. We’ll scale it back to match the money we have,” Hays said.
Hanna’s Town served as the original county seat and was founded in 1773, where a local tavern also operated as the first English-style courthouse west of the Allegheny mountains, according to the historical society.
The village, in Hempfield, now includes a re-creation of Hanna’s Tavern, where those early court hearings were conducted, three relocated vintage log houses, a reconstructed Revolutionary War-era fort and a shed that houses an authentic late 18th century Conestoga wagon.
The 176-acre park saw about 15,000 visitors last year, Hays said.
Commissioners said the hope is the education and visitor’s center will help attract additional tourists to the site.
“It’s one of the most significant sites in southwest Pennsylvania,” Commissioner Charles Anderson said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.