by Jonathan Weaver
A nationwide service project continued in Armstrong and Indiana counties for the 10th year in a row on Monday.
Armstrong Conservation District AmeriCorps volunteer Katie Good displayed some of the canned food items members collected during Monday’s annual ‘MLK Day of Service Food Drive.’ (submitted photo)
Indiana County AmeriCorps VISTA Jamie Douthit summarized the meaning behind the AmeriCorps members from the two counties collected canned goods and donations at local grocery stores.
“(Monday) was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and for all of AmeriCorps is a mandatory service day,” Douthit said. “Every year the VISTA in my position working with the (Armstrong) Conservation District and Evergreen Conservancy (conducts) a food drive and I followed in their footsteps.”
Douthit -originally of Rochester, New York – started at Evergreen Conservancy as an Environmental Outreach Coordinator in November and said their portion of the service collection started at 10AM Monday.
“We stayed until 5PM and we got 191 food (items) that we donated to ICCAP (Indiana County Community Action Program. We got a really positive response. There are a lot of really-kind hearted people in Indiana County,” Douthit said.
“(ICCAP has) a food shelf that distributes food to different organizations throughout the county. We took our donations over there (Tuesday) afternoon and dropped them off to help out. They were very pleased.”
Douthit was joined at Giant Eagle in Indiana by AmeriCorps volunteers Maria Sorce and Kyle Edgar – who represented the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, in Indiana, and Marion Center Area School District respectively.
Armstrong Conservation District AmeriCorps Katie Good and Larissa Rice collected canned goods from 10AM-2PM at Shop `n Save in the Franklin Village Shopping Center in support of the food drive.
They were joined by Rice’s sister, Lauren – a former conservation district intern who now studies parks and recreation at Slippery Rock University – and former intern Taniel Crytzer.
Good said Tuesday volunteers collected more than 30 canned items as well as $20 cash, and donated those items to the Armstrong County Community Action Food Bank – based on Butler Road in East Franklin Township. She hoped to collect more, but said grocery traffic was light during the food collection.
“Every little bit helps,” Good said.
Both Larissa and Good will finish their AmeriCorps service in August, whereas Douthit completes her first term in November.
Last January, AmeriCorps VISTA Sara Beatty coordinated collection efforts with Good and calculated that volunteers collected two cardboard boxes-worth of non-perishable food items and more than $220 in cash.
Congress designated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national day of service – a “day on not a day off” – in 1994.
A civil trial involving a local sewage authority and a previous contractor remains underway.
Claims and counterclaims have been submitted during the past four years regarding payment from the Ford City Borough Municipal Sewage Disposal Authority to S&E Utility Contracting, Inc (of Harrison City, Westmoreland County).
S&E Utility Contracting was the original contractor in the nearly-$2 million sewer separation project in the borough. Notice to proceed on the separation project was issued in December 2010 for the installation of new sanitary sewers and appurtenances along 5th Avenue, including asphalt paving restoration.
The attorney for S & E Utility Contracting, Inc. questioned former Sewage Authority President Terry Tokarek.
Tokarek said that he indeed signed the contract after the board approved the contract with S&E, but that Authority Engineer David Nichols, of Nichols and Slagle Engineering, found work was not being completed as agreed upon in the contract.
During cross-examination by Authority Attorney Frank Wolfe, Nichols said some of the problems included marking tape not being put over sewage lines, wrong caps being used for sewage lines, some street repaving not completed and some curbs defective or in the wrong place.
In September 2011, Sewage Authority members unanimously voted to advertise for bids for the sidewalk restoration work to compete with S&E Utility Contracting.
Before a notice to proceed with sidewalk restoration was issued to Santamaria Landscape and Cement, of Apollo, in April 2012, it was reported that Wolfe and Nichols were in discussions with the legal representative for S&E Utility Contracting in reference to change orders for the sewer separation project.
Court documents show a civil action was first filed in mid-April of that year. S&E Utility Contracting is reportedly seeking more than $400,000 in payment for the work they claim they completed, while the sewage authority has issued a six-figure counterclaim.
The Armstrong Conservation District performed a final inspection of the sewer separation project – including the sidewalk replacement through Santamaria Landscape and Cement and installation through S&E Utility Contracting – and terminated the project permit in December 2013. Sewage Authority officials notarized the document completing the project at that time.
Authority Superintendent James Smerick was also reportedly asked to testify Tuesday, but was called to the stand before the end of business.
It was ordered in April 2016 that testimony in the civil trial will not exceed seven days.