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Ligonier Valley YMCA project in public phase |

Ligonier Valley YMCA project in public phase

With construction of its expansion project about 33 percent complete, the Ligonier Valley YMCA is entering the public phase of its capital campaign to fund the 32,000-square-foot addition.

On Friday, YMCA staff and its board invited members and others in the community to its activity center to discuss the fundraiser, “Building a Healthy Community Together,” and provide an update on construction.

Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Larry Stormer said the YMCA has raised approximately $5.94 million of its $6.7 million goal thanks to contributions from foundations, corporations and local businesses.

The expansion project, which began construction in March, includes a new fitness center, gymnasium and Excela Health medical facilities.

“We’re on the cusp of something absolutely wonderful,” a new facility that will “provide a foundation for many years to come,” President Robert Baum said.

Fort Construction Group of Ligonier is building the facility. Stormer said the first-floor exterior is built and a concrete decking for the second floor is in place. Crews are starting work on the second floor.

“The project is going great,” said construction manager Jeff Feret of ArTech Group. “We’re about 33 percent completed.”

The summer’s heavy rains put construction about a week behind schedule, Feret said, but there have been no other hiccups. Underground electrical work and plumbing installation have begun.

Steel for the roof is expected to arrive the third week of August, and construction will be under a roof by the end of October or early November, he said.

Stormer and others discussed how the expansion will support the sustainability of the YMCA.

Former board president Bernard “Bernie” Lynch spoke about the YMCA’s history, detailing the financially challenging first few years. It was incorporated in January 1983 and the building, a former school, was purchased in 1985. He read from a letter the first executive director sent him in the YMCA’s infancy detailing a monthly financial report.

“We’re running out of money,” the letter said. “The bank balance is $1,300 with no viable income until August. Give me a call next week.”

Board member Richard “Dirk” Matson reflected on the purchase of the building.

“Let me just say this — there were naysayers then just the same as there are naysayers now, and the Y is going to continue to thrive and continue to grow in spite of the people that say it’s not going to work,” Matson said.

Today the YMCA has about 4,000 members.

“I can’t tell you how important the Y is to our town,” said Mayor Ormond “Butch” Bellas. “It is absolutely a wonderful thing that is happening.”

The expansion remains the topic of two ongoing legal battles involving some of the YMCA’s neighbors. North Fairfield Street resident Gay Wasserman is appealing the decision by borough officials to vacate an alley near her home and grant permission for the YMCA to build a parking lot as part of the expansion project. Wasserman claims in the appeal that the borough’s action would have an “adverse impact” on her property.

Wasserman and residents Karen and William McCullough, whose homes also neighbor the YMCA, lost a similar appeal in Westmoreland County court, but that decision was overturned by a Commonwealth Court ruling in May. The trio claimed the borough did not follow proper procedure in changing the zoning on two properties and amending the zoning ordinance to permit construction of the parking lot. Though Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili quashed the appeal, the Commonwealth Court concluded that the appeal’s dismissal was unwarranted, stating the neighbors sufficiently set forth a basis for their appeal. The case has been remanded and reassigned to Judge Richard C. McCormick Jr.

In June, McCormick instructed the attorneys to submit briefs in both cases. Their deadline is Aug. 14, according to online court documents.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or [email protected].

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