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Westmoreland County Community College to expand public safety training center

Jeff Himler
gtrITT091316
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Community College on Sept. 12, 2016.

Westmoreland County Community College is preparing to expand its public safety training center for first responders while saying farewell to unwanted classroom facilities in Latrobe and Greene County. The college’s board of trustees this month authorized architectural services for a planned $1 million expansion of the training center, agreeing to hire Roth Martz Partnership for a fee not to exceed $64,750. Westmoreland County is covering half the project cost as part of a bond issue.

The project will add 3,600 square feet to a 3,000-square-foot classroom building at the South Huntingdon center that will also house showers, restrooms and lockers. A 1,800-square-foot pole barn will provide a separate shelter for a fire truck used in training exercises.

Tuesday Stanley, president of the college, said the locker room and expansion from one to three classrooms will accommodate more participants at a given time while offering more advanced and varied training.

“We’ve had some issues where we had to reschedule some things,” Stanley said. With the extra rooms, “We can run multiple sessions, and it also allows for bigger groups.”

Stanley said the college hopes to break ground this summer and complete work in about four months. Also, a sand surface will be added at the center’s outdoor shooting range.

The trustees approved the sale of the college’s former Laurel Education Center along Lloyd Avenue in Latrobe, a deal expected to close in February, and moved to shutter its 17-year-old Greene County Education Center on June 30, when the center’s lease expires at EverGreene Technology Park in Franklin Township. Spring classes there will continue until the end of the semester, May 11.

The Laurel center has been closed since its replacement, the $10 million Latrobe Center, opened in 2015 at Depot and Jefferson streets — offering space for up to 1,000 students, double the capacity of the Lloyd Avenue location.

The Laurel center and a portion of its grounds are being sold to National Acoustic Research Academy for $400,000.

Stanley said that price, though less than what the college had aimed for, “was in the range of what the appraisal came in at. It was fair for both the college and the entity that purchased it.”

According to a letter of intent expressing interest in the property, it will house Aerial Energy Resources, established in 2009 to provide testing and engineering support services for the infrastructure, transportation and energy market, and National Acoustic Research Academy, formed last year to train personnel to fill a growing demand for testing related to quality control and safety performance in those fields.

Some of the Lloyd Avenue space also is being eyed for a nonprofit yoga and meditation center.

Enrollment at the new Latrobe Center has seen an uptick, from 344 in the fall 2015 semester to 359 this past fall. In contrast, student numbers in Greene County fell from 113 to just 66 over the same period.

“Enrollment at Greene has been declining for several years and the college has subsidized its cost of operations, which we can no longer afford to do,” said Stanley.

She said the college hopes to continue serving Greene residents with courses offered online, in conjunction with area high schools and at other locations including a Fayette County center in Uniontown.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622 or [email protected].

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