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Two local volunteers, both heavily involved in environmental initiatives in Indiana County, were lauded by the county commissioners at the board's Oct. 29 meeting

The commissioners read proclamations to congratulate JoAnne Ferraro of New Florence and John Dudash of Homer City, both members of Community Action, Inc.'s Senior Corps-RSVP program.

Ferraro, who's been active with the program for 13 years, was honored as a winner of the Senior Corps of PA Legacy Award.

She's logged over 5,400 hours of volunteer work, the majority of it through the PA Senior Environmental Corps (PaSEC), which she assists with monitoring local waterways, conducting chemical and physical assessments to improve community water sources. She's also worked with recycling programs, intergenerational environmental programs and trash clean-ups through the group, in addition to serving as secretary of the Indiana County chapter.

Ferraro also volunteers with the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, the American Red Cross disaster call center, Indiana County Head Start and the Indiana County League of Women Voters.

“I just don't know how I ever found time to work, because volunteering does take up a lot of time,” Ferraro said.

Dudash was named a Senior Corps-RSVP Volunteer of the Year for his work with both the local PaSEC chapter and Evergreen Conservancy.

With PaSEC, he helps monitor the Tanoma Mine discharge passive treatment system, while also assessing local stream health and working with both state and local entities to help make improvements.

In his work with Evergreen Conservancy, Dudash has assisted with the installation and maintenance of five telemetry units placed throughout the county, continuing to help keep those units calibrated and maintained. He's also part of a team that oversees 35 data loggers throughout the county, keeping them in working order and reinstalling them as necessary.

Dudash said the highlight of his year has been being part of a team of volunteers that has planted 12 new American chestnut trees as part of a new program helping to restore area chestnut trees affected by blight.

Commissioners chair Rodney Ruddock used the words “dedication,” “passion” and “persistence” to describe the volunteers, remarking that their effort “makes, we believe, Indiana County a very special place to live.”

Indiana County had its housing strategies for the next 10 years clearly defined as the commissioners approved the Indiana County Housing Plan as part of the county's comprehensive plan.

The housing plan will serve as the guiding document for both policy and development efforts regarding housing in the county. The Indiana County Office of Planning and Development worked closely with Mullin and Lonergan Associates on the plan specifics, and public engagement opportunities and key stakeholder interviews were conducted as part of the plan's development.

Zach Norwood, a senior planner with the county Office of Planning and Development, said the plan will serve as a detailed road map on how the county should proceed concerning housing.

The county-wide effort “looks at where housing is occurring, where demand for housing is happening and how we can project on the housing stock that we have, what our demands are going to be in the future, and a very more detailed look at housing across the board and everything that influences it,” like taxes and schools, said Norwood.

Housing plans are not required by the county, but not only will it help with planning, it has the potential to make the county more attractive when it comes to federal and state funding applications. In fact, it has already been used for funding purposes, Norwood said.

“A lot of state and federal grants require a plan and action strategy and data to back up what you're saying,” he said. “This is one of those documents that's going to help us be able to leverage for more dollars coming into the county.”

The housing plan was funded through the county's community development block grant entitlement along with Act 137 funds and a donation from the United Way of Indiana County.

In other business, the commissioners: 

• Announced plans for Indiana University of Pennsylvania's annual Hawk Rock dance-a-thon, set to take place Nov. 8 at the Memorial Field House on campus. The event raises money and awareness for hunger and homelessness in Indiana County and benefits three local charities. Organizers are hoping to beat last year's total raised of $5,500;

• Approved a number of contracts for Indiana County Children and Youth Services, including cleaning and maintenance contracts and a private provider contract;

• Approved a change order in the amount of $16,418 to the general construction contract with Marmat Construction, Inc. of Hooversville for additions to the build-out project at the site at 280 Indian Springs Rd., as requested by the new tenant, World Health Industries;

• Entered into a $70,000 contract agreement with Gibson-Thomas Engineering of Latrobe for the design and inspection services needed for the Arcadia Water Treatment Compliance Project, updating the facility, which has been under a state Department of Environmental Protection consent order.

The Indiana County Courthouse will be closed Tuesday in observance of Veterans' Day.

The next meeting of the county commissioners will be 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or [email protected].

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