ShareThis Page
Westmoreland County hands out $387K in tourism grants |

Westmoreland County hands out $387K in tourism grants

Jeff Himler
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Annie Urban of Fort Ligonier accepts a grant from the Westmoreland County Tourism Grant Program which award $377,933 to 40 county businesses and organizations this year.

West Overton Village and Museum in Scottdale plans to use an $18,222 Westmoreland County tourism grant to upgrade the lower level of its distillery museum with improved facilities for disabled visitors.

Managing Director Jessica Kadie-Barclay said those attending programs offered in the Overholt Room who can’t navigate interior stairs have had to exit the five-story building and re-enter at a higher level to reach restrooms. With the help of the grant, she said, an improved handicapped-accessible rest-room will be installed that will be accessible from the Overholt Room via an interior ramp.

“We’re very excited about it,” Kadie-Barclay said. “We are using that space for weddings, special events and speakers, and we found that there is no way for us to be welcoming to anybody with a wheelchair. It really limits our ability to use that space.”

Kadie-Barclay said the West Overton Village project will replace a fixed stage for presenters added to the Overholt Room in the 1980s with a portable stage.

“It will make that space so much more adaptable,” she said.

The grant was one of 41 presented Thursday at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg in an annual program that is coordinated by the county and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. The combined $387,933 in grants presented this year is a third of the annual revenue generated through a 3 percent hotel room tax levied in the county. That amount is down from $401,191 awarded last year but is slightly more than the $382,575 distributed in 2014.

In addressing the recipients, Charles W. Anderson, a county commissioner, pointed out that tourism is one of the two chief “money-makers” in the county, along with agriculture.

“You guys are the generators of economic development. We want to do everything we can to feed you oxygen and keep you going,” he said.

Commissioner Ted Kopas said the tourism grant program serves as an example that “taxes aren’t always evil, and we can make them work.”

Visitors bureau CEO Renee Seifert reported visitors spent $1.8 billion in the Laurel Highlands in 2013, including $742 million in Westmoreland County, according to most recent data available.

She added that 14,836 people were employed in tourism in the Laurel Highlands that year — 5,723 in the county — which was a 4.2 percent increase from 2012.

Seifert noted organizations or businesses receiving grants in excess of $10,000 will receive half the amount in advance, with the remainder released pending documentation that the money was expended as planned.

This year’s grant recipients were selected from 78 applicants seeking a total of $692,000.

The Regional Trail Corporation received a $10,433.75 grant to cover operational costs of the West Newton Visitors Center, a key stop along the Great Allegheny Passage hiking and biking trail.

All other funds were requested for marketing efforts. Recipients of the largest grants included The Palace Theatre and Fort Ligonier, $25,000 each, and Westmoreland Museum of American Art, $24,000.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.