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Winter 2013
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2013 Budget: higher revenues without higher taxes
Bonds drive municipal building surge
Walt Disney and me...By Richard Hadley, Cranberry Township Supervisor
Safeguarding Cranberry's sanitary sewer lines
At MSA, safety isn't a slogan, it's a mission
Pittsburgh's Elmhurst Group is building in Cranberry

Coming Soon: A new guide to summer fun
Ooops! I forgot to pay my taxes.
Meet RoboFlush.
What's your sign?
Be nice or else.
Something else to give thanks for.
Be still my foolish heart.
Power rescue.
EMS launches subscription drive.
Parks hunker down.
Winter survival tips.
Preparing for disasters
New home planned for Cranberry EMS
Firefighter Profile: Paul Brown's Choir
Playtime Palace to be replaced by Kids Castle playground
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

 


2013 Budget: higher revenues without higher taxes

Cranberry’s ongoing boom in population, employment and construction is expected to generate more in tax revenues during 2013 than last year, according to Cranberry Finance Director Vanessa Gleason.  The anticipated revenue growth will come about without raising taxes.  In addition, no further bond issues or other forms of borrowing are contemplated during the coming year. 

“We did a bond issue in 2011 and got an extra $10 million,” Gleason explained.  “So we’re going to continue with those bond issue projects.  We’re on track with the new sewer line interceptor.  The Public Safety training facility is completed.  We’re going to start on a new base station for the EMS.  There’s a water main along Executive Drive that we’re going to do.  And we’re looking at remodeling the old police station space in the Municipal Center.”

The 2013 outlook for revenue is up by approximately five percent, while budgeted expenditures, which are also up, will increase a little more slowly – by just under four percent, she pointed out.   

The Township’s 2013 General Fund budget – which finances such core municipal services as public safety, building code enforcement, public works and administration – is $17.2 million.  The other funds – the special-purpose “enterprise funds” including water, sewer, trash, golf course, and swimming pool operations – are primarily financed by user fees and together amount to $32.7 million, for a budget grand total of $49.9 million. 

“We’re also doing some fairly big capital projects,” Gleason noted.  “We’re starting to plan for an upgrade to the treatment plant, which will be a costly project.  We were able to use a balance already in the Sewer Fund for plant design, which is expensive.  But we don’t anticipate starting construction on any expansion until 2015 or 2016.” 

In Community Park this year, the Township is expecting to replace its aging Playtime Palace playground structure – much of which the Cranberry Township Community Chest, CTCC, together with the Cranberry CUP organization – hope to raise and apply toward financing the project. 

“At the same time, we’re continuing to see good revenue from building permits,” Gleason pointed out.  “And we’re looking at another significant year in 2013.” 

Formula-driven state funds from gasoline tax for road resurfacing, supplements for police retirement pensions, recycling performance awards, and fire company revenue from out-of-state businesses with operations in Pennsylvania, will also remain in the Township’s revenue stream for 2013, although at declining levels.  And starting this year, revenue from fees for Marcellus Shale drilling in the county will start kicking in as well. 

Discretionary grants, however, are a different story.  A one-time-only H2O grant from the state to help build the Township’s new $2.8 million water pump station in Thorn Hill Industrial Park, amounted to just $105,000.  However, a state-required audit of the use of that grant money cost the Township $5,000, reducing the net value of the grant even further. 

Bonds drive municipal building surge

Two years ago, the Township’s Board of Supervisors approved a bond issue which capitalized on the convergence of Cranberry’s highest-ever credit rating with the market’s lowest-ever borrowing rates, to raise $10 million for a series of capital improvements.  The sale was an immediate success.

But there was a catch: the funds couldn’t sit around indefinitely; they’d have to be spent, or at least committed to being spent on specific projects, within three years of the time they were issued.  That’s a requirement.  So the Township has been on a building spree, and it’s not over yet. 

• A new 24-inch water main, to be installed along Executive Drive, will link the Township’s current northern and southern water transmission circuits.  It will enable the system to deliver enough water to meet the eventual requirements of both Cranberry’s growing commercial sector and its new northern neighborhoods. 

• A new Public Safety Training Center, adjacent to the Fire Company’s practice tower, includes several vehicle demonstration bays and a well-equipped classroom, to advance the professionalism of Cranberry’s volunteer firefighters.  The facility is also available for use by the Township’s police department, its EMS, and for joint programs with nearby Mutual Aid agencies.

• A new home for the Cranberry Emergency Medical Service will provide a larger, more capable, more centrally located base from which the EMS can dispatch its ambulances.  Cranberry EMS is the Township’s designated ambulance service for responding to calls from Butler 9-1-1.  It also provides non-emergency patient transportation services and community safety instruction.  The new station will be adjacent to the Rt. 19 Park Fire Station. 

• A series of repairs and improvements to the Cranberry Community Waterpark, which initially opened 16 years ago, will be taking place.  Among them is an expansion of the popular Zero-depth entry portion of the pool. 

• A 6,500 square foot space inside the Municipal Center building which formerly housed its police department has remained unfinished and unused for the past eight years.  At the same time, however, demand for additional space by the building’s current occupants has continued to grow.  In response, the Township budgeted $1 million toward making improvements in the structure’s floor plan this year.  Details are not yet final, but they include new tutoring rooms linked to the library; a new preschool area with its own kid-friendly restrooms; additional Parks & Recreation activity rooms, and an outdoor reading area adjacent to the library. 

• Work is well underway on a five-mile long sanitary sewer mainline, known as Interceptor One, which runs from the Marshall Township line to the Brush Creek treatment plant.  Completion of the $5 million pipeline project is expected by the end of this year.

Two other recently completed Township projects were paid for from separate sources of funding:

• A long-planned half-mile extension of Heights Drive eastward to Rt. 19, together with aesthetic and traffic-calming improvements along previously-built portions of the roadway, was completed and opened to traffic this summer.  The road provides local residents with a north-south alternative to the frequently congested Perry Highway. 

• A new high-capacity pump station in Thorn Hill Industrial Park is now delivering water into the Township’s distribution system.  It replaces a smaller, underground pump house nearby.  With a rated capacity of 4.4 million gallons a day, the new pumping station will be able to meet the Township’s needs through 2030, when its population is projected to reach 50,000.  

Walt Disney and me...By Richard Hadley, Cranberry Township Supervisor

A number of years ago, it became clear to me, and to most of my colleagues on the Board, that if a direct connector linking the Turnpike to I-79 was ever going to be built, Rt. 228 would have to be more than just the simple two-lane country road it had been for generations.  Surging traffic would force it to become a major east-west thoroughfare, much as Rt. 19 had already become for Cranberry’s north-south axis.  And we needed to prepare ourselves for that eventuality. 

Back then, of course, traffic moving between the two Interstates had to exit onto Rt. 19, mingle with local traffic for a mile or so, and then climb a ramp leading onto the other highway.  It was a mess for everyone.  But building a direct connector linking the two roads was considered a distant dream.  Widening 228 and enhancing its appearance in anticipation of such a connector was regarded as living in a world of make-believe.  In fact, there were those who referred to the idea as “the Walt Disney Plan.”  That wasn’t a reference to how well the real Walt Disney World was planned and run; it was more a mocking reference to it being a fantasy – wishing upon a star or something like that.

Looking back, it’s already getting hard to remember what things were like as recently as the 1990s.  But the signalized, multi-lane 228 with planter islands you see today was by no means inevitable.  There was plenty of pressure to let it become Strip Mall Boulevard with end-to-end curb cuts and cross traffic along a two-lane blacktop that would look a lot like the road still does east of Cranberry.  But the Township held onto its vision of 228 developing into a vital commercial gateway, and today it serves as an important focus of Cranberry’s economic growth.  So the community deserves to pat itself on the back for sustaining and implementing that vision over a 20 year period. 

However I recently got back from a visit to Italy.  And there, visions for the construction of public projects are sometimes sustained over millennia, across generations of political turmoil and economic upheaval.  It’s not unusual to find palaces and cathedrals which took hundreds of years to build – an attention span which dwarfs anything we have to compare it against here. 

Of course, I realize their work often came in fits and starts; there were entire centuries when not much happened or when adversaries, like the Visigoths, would come to town and start behaving badly.  Yet the legacy which was left behind often included some very high-quality urban construction; compare the Coliseum to Three Rivers Stadium, for example.  And in practically every settlement, regardless of size, it also included a grand plaza which became the focus of the city’s economic life, its ceremonial occasions, its social gatherings, and more. 

Today, hundreds or even thousands of years later, those sweeping piazzas, majestic cathedrals, and grand boulevards remain at the core of daily life in towns throughout Italy.  In both obvious and not-so-obvious ways, the physical architecture of each community shapes the mentality and sets the daily rhythm of life for the people who live there. 

Back in ancient Rome, the planners and leaders of their time understood that a civilization’s success was profoundly influenced by the quality of its man-made environment.  It still is.  And striving to make sure that a community’s layout, infrastructure, construction quality, and public amenities are consistent with its aspirations, remain a public official’s core responsibility – even if those ambitions cannot be realized within that individual’s own term of office. 

Rome, as the old adage goes, wasn’t built in a day.  Neither was Cranberry.  But the greatness of both is rooted in sustained visions of communities whose designs and construction are worthy of their people.  Welcome to the Magic Kingdom. 


Safeguarding Cranberry’s sanitary sewer lines

People don’t pay much attention to their home sewer lines – until they collapse and stop working.  That’s when the same drains which started out carrying wastewater away from sinks, toilets and showers abruptly reverse themselves, becoming gateways for waste to re-enter the house, flooding basements, warping walls, and creating a fetid mess.  That’s when people start taking notice. 

But long before household line failures get a chance to grab residents’ attention, the issues which could eventually compromise the Township’s sanitary sewer system were already being scrutenized by Cranberry’s Public Works wastewater specialist Rhonda Zellhart.  Using an arsenal of investigative tools, including robots, TV cameras, smoke injections, dye tests, flow monitors and data assessments to take the pulse of the underground network, Zellhart pinpoints risks to the system’s integrity. 

Infiltration of ground water through cracked seams, crushed pipe sections, intrusive tree roots, and unauthorized stormwater taps can quickly overload the system with a blend of rainwater and sanitary waste, she explained, particularly during major storms. 

The ripple effect not only exacerbates home backup issues, it can also overwhelm the treatment plant’s handling capacity.  So those are the areas where Township repair efforts get focused.

However, only part of Cranberry’s costly wastewater system actually belongs to the Township.  Most of it is private property – particularly the so-called ‘laterals’ – pipelines which tie each customer’s home or business into publicly-owned collector lines.  But even though they’re private, their condition has a direct impact on the public side of the system. 

“In a few areas of the Township we’ve repaired just about everything we can on the public side; now we’re going back into those areas to re-monitor the flow and see if we’re still having high levels of infiltration,” Zellhart noted.  “It’s a partnership.  We’re spending money on the sewer system to make sure it’s properly maintained.  Now we’re pushing out into the private side by giving people tools and direction.” 

While the age of a home and its lateral can be factors in a sewer line’s condition, they are far from being the only one.  “Under ideal conditions, the lifespan of a sewer line is around 100 years,” she said.  “But if there’s a flaw or defect in the way the sewer line is laid, it’s a ticking time bomb.  It can be compromised from Day One.  If they lay it where a joint is right underneath the foundation, for instance, it can cause a sag in the sewer line, and the homeowner may notice a gurgling sound.  Debris will build up and cause a blockage.  Eventually, it will collapse.  That’s why regular maintenance is so important. 

“We’ve seen instances of new homes having those same issues.  Typically the sewer lines in newer homes tend to be PVC, but that’s not a 100 percent guarantee.  It all depends on the contractor, on what the soil conditions are, on whether there’s a lot of rock under the foundation – that sort of thing. 

“Sometimes, to deal with high ground water, a builder might tap a home’s sump pump right into the sanitary sewer line, because it’s easier.  But it’s also illegal.  So what we’re trying to do is raise awareness.  By smoke and dye testing the lines, we’ll be able to help homeowners and let them know there’s an issue they’re going to want to address. 

“In Marshall Township, every time a home is sold, it has to be inspected to make sure there’s no outside water getting into their system.  Cranberry is taking a slightly different approach.  We know where we’ve done significant amount of work on our side of the sewer system.  Now we’re going to start looking at those private side laterals where we know we have issues.  We’re trying to get our money’s worth from the system, but it’s always going to be an issue.  So the best we can do is keep it nice, keep it organized, and keep it moving.”  


At MSA, safety isn’t a slogan, it’s a mission

Cutting-edge technology is great – up to a point.  Take the case of Mine Safety Appliances Co., MSA, a world leader in advanced fire and industrial safety equipment, as well as instruments for gas and flame detection.

“This is the helmet that was going to revolutionize firefighter head protection back in the mid ‘80s,” Mark Deasy, MSA’s Director of Strategic Communications explained as he plunked the futuristic piece of headgear onto the conference room table.  “It was called the Brigade Firefighter Helmet.  A revolutionary design at the time.  Very functional.  Very different.  And a very, very good firefighter helmet.  It even garnered a place in the New York Museum of Modern Art.  But it completely flopped in the market in North America.”  Why? 

Tradition.  There’s a powerful culture among America’s firefighters which, while it generally embraces new technology, also venerates fire service customs.  One of them involves the shape of the fire helmet worn by generations of American firefighters. 

Its distinctive rigid brim and heavily reinforced leather shell have long been the signature headgear of both career and volunteer firefighters.  And MSA’s Brigade Firefighter Helmet just didn’t fit that fashion requirement. 

Even so, roughly eight out of ten U.S. firefighters today wear MSA’s traditional Cairns brand of fire helmets, and many of them also outfit themselves with other items from the company’s life-saving product lines including breathing apparatus, rescue belts, and thermal imaging cameras. 

When the company was founded in 1914, its focus had been on protecting miners – workers whose rate of death and injury on the job at the time was horrendous.  Mining is still dangerous work, although far less so than at the start of the 20th century, and industrial safety remains the company’s central mission.  But as a market for MSA products, mining has declined to a minor role in North America.  The oil/gas/petroleum industry has now emerged as its largest segment, with general industry, construction and fire service gear right behind. 

At the same time, however, the growth of mining and manufacturing operations overseas has accelerated, driven by emerging markets in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.  As a result, as of 2011, MSA’s sales outside the United States represented 59 percent of its $1.17 billion worldwide total.  And its investment in overseas offices, plants, partnerships and personnel reflects that growth.

But the company’s roots have always remained in the Pittsburgh area.  In fact, it was a catastrophic 1912 mine explosion in nearby West Virginia that resulted in the company’s formation two years later.  A pocket of trapped methane gas had ignited, killing more than 80 miners.  For mine engineer and MSA founder John T. Ryan Sr., the tragedy prompted a vow: that preventing similar disasters would become his life’s work. 

By the mid-‘80s, MSA’s fledgling business in portable gas detection instruments needed more room to grow, so the company bought a 327-acre wooded site in Cranberry for its electronic research, engineering and assembly operations.  Then two years ago, its corporate headquarters also relocated to Cranberry Woods, bringing MSA’s total employment there to around 800.  In 2012, it was named by the Post-Gazette as one of the region’s top workplaces – for the second consecutive year.  And last year its CEO, William Lambert, received the region’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in manufacturing.

Over the years, the company’s customer and product mix have continued to evolve.  But workplace safety has always remained at its core.  Today, supplied-air respirators, safety helmets, gas and flame detection instruments and fall protection equipment are the pillars of MSA’s business line.  And in the future, high-tech innovations will continue driving its line of life-saving products, all of which are built, as Lambert puts it, to work on what is likely the worst day of someone’s life on the job.  Even if they’re not always in high-fashion. 


Pittsburgh’s Elmhurst Group is building in Cranberry

Developing large-scale commercial properties is a fiendishly complicated process.  It involves working closely with investment partners, prospective tenants, financial entities, contractors and multiple units of government to keep complex projects on track for timely completion.  And it requires each of those entities to have confidence in the developer’s ability to deliver.

For Pittsburgh’s Elmhurst Group, which owns and manages approximately 2.5 million square feet of office and industrial space in southwestern Pennsylvania, maintaining a solid reputation for delivering on projects is paramount.  It’s reflected in the title of its corporate brochure: “Getting it done.”  And its leadership takes that status in the development community very seriously. 

“Our whole real estate portfolio is within the Pittsburgh market,” Elmhurst CEO William Hunt explained.  “We have a reputation here.  We work with the Union Pension Fund.  We have a lot of contacts and relationships in Western Pennsylvania.  It’s always been our theory at Elmhurst to create value by using our relationships and our ability to accomplish what others could not.”

The Elmhurst Group’s outstanding connections and credibility were earned over a long period of time.  Although the company itself has been around for 30 years, its roots go even deeper.  It is the direct descendant of one of the region’s most prominent families – William Hunt’s great grandfather, Alfred, co-founded Alcoa more than 100 years ago.  As a result, the family’s connections to influential people and institutions in the region are unmatched.  Even the investment group’s name, Elmhurst, is taken from the family’s former stately homestead in Oakland.

Real estate projects currently in the company’s portfolio include the RAND Corporation building in Oakland, three business parks in the airport area, office buildings in Monroeville and Pittsburgh’s north shore, as well as the Doubletree Hotel downtown – which also serves as the Group’s headquarters.  But it will soon include three new commercial buildings in Cranberry: an office building in Cranberry Crossroads, and twin office/warehouse buildings in RIDC’s Thorn Hill Industrial Park.

It’s not the Group’s first venture in Cranberry; years ago, when it was still involved in residential housing, Elmhurst built the Winchester Farms and Winchester Lakes subdivisions near Unionville Road.  But today the company’s sole focus is on commercial development, and Cranberry is generating considerable interest as a site for new business expansion. 

“I think Cranberry has done a very good job of stepping up,” Hunt said.  “They did whatever they could to make sure planning was a major part of whatever happens in Cranberry.  And that’s laudable.  We’ve talked about Cranberry being a high growth market for a long time.  But I think it’s moved up to another level during the last three or four years.  You’ve got to have planning, and if you’re consistent with your planning over time, it should work out.  And I think Cranberry’s proven that.” 

“I am currently national chair of the real estate trade group, NAIOP.  So I’ve travelled all over the country and I talk and listen and meet with other developers.  And one of the things I’ve learned is that 15 years ago, there were a lot of towns that said “Let’s just be residential – we only want homes, nobody wants retail; put it somewhere else.  Our tax base will pay for itself.”  But over time, most communities have come to realize that the really successful ones have live/work/play.  It all needs to be tied together; it can’t just be residential.

“There’s an old Yogi Berra line about restaurants: ‘Nobody goes there anymore; it got too crowded’,” Hunt noted.  “There’s a little bit of that in Cranberry, too.  People say ‘Oh, 228 is so crowded.’  Well, people still love it.  They’re going to all those restaurants, they’re loving the activity.  I go up there and I feel like I’m in a new city.  It’s refreshing.” 


In briefs…

Coming Soon: A new guide to summer fun.
  It may be mid-winter, but copies of Cranberry’s Parks & Recreation Department warm weather program guide in a new, twice-yearly format, will be delivered to homes in Cranberry during mid-January.  The guide covers activities, events, and class offerings for both spring and summer, 2013.  Registration, which will be open for all listed programs, begins on Monday, January 28.  The Guide will also be posted online in its entirety at the Township’s website, www.cranberrytownship.org, and it will remain accessible throughout both seasons.  The new format replaces the three-times-a-year program guides which had been published in the past. 

Ooops! I forgot to pay my taxes.  If you didn’t get around to paying your real estate taxes by December 31, don’t worry; your account has already been turned over to the friendly folks at the Butler County Tax Claim Bureau, who will be happy to discuss it with you at 724-284-5326.  Your 2013 County/Township property tax notice won’t even be mailed until March 1.  Even then, you’ll have until the end of April to pay it at a discount rate.  If your home in Cranberry is your primary residence, you may be eligible for a homestead property tax discount.  Contact Tax Collector P.J. Lynd for details and for information about all aspects of real estate tax at 724-776-1103 weekdays.

Meet RoboFlush.  During the warm weather months, THMs – an unhealthy byproduct of chlorination – can build up in water distribution lines, particularly at the far ends of the Township’s water system.  At several remote points in the system, keeping THM levels down has required Public Works to send a technician who would manually open a hydrant valve and spend half an hour every day waiting while water flushed out.  That’s not productive.  During a month-long trial this past summer, the department tested a device which attaches to fire hydrants and uses a timer to control its line flushing frequency.  And it worked.  So next summer, look for automated hydrant flushers at several key locations in the system, and don’t be alarmed if you see them dumping water onto the street without adult supervision; that’s what they’re supposed to do.

What’s your sign? What do Jaclyn, Rose, Lee, Stacy and Sarah have in common with Katherine and Wayne?  It’s that a limited number of used Cranberry street signs bearing their names are now available for sale by the Township, as are more than 200 signs carrying the names of other local roads.  Anyone with $25 can buy a retired Cranberry Township street sign to decorate their den, dorm, or bedroom – and it’s all perfectly legal.  A list of signs is posted on the Township website,
www.cranberrytownship.org.  Buyers can go to the Township’s Municipal Center Customer Service desk during regular business hours with the names of the signs they want to buy.  All signs, regardless of condition, are priced at $25 each plus state sales tax, for a total of $26.50.  Cash, checks, Visa and MasterCard will all be accepted.

Be nice or else.  Using offensive language and making obscene gestures are, by definition, rude behaviors.  But in Pennsylvania, they can be downright expensive as well.  Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, a body known for its decorum, recently raised the fine for those found guilty of disorderly conduct – an offense which includes a range of unsocial behavior including public obscenity – from $300 to $500 for a first conviction, up to $1,000 for subsequent violations.  The same price hike also applies to convictions for underage drinking, which not only concern the actual act of drinking, it also includes buying and transporting alcoholic beverages.  Although the law recognizes a few narrowly defined exceptions, those circumstances are exceptional and unlikely to get most violators off the hook.

Something else to give thanks for.  Eleven year old Max Lamm paired with Cranberry resident Tyrone Wrice to run the 5k Turkey Chase in Graham Park on Thanksgiving Day.  Lamm, a fifth grader in Mars Area Centennial School who lost his sight to cancer six years ago, was among more than 500 who participated in the event, which had been organized by Mojo Running and Multisport of Seven Fields as a fund-raiser to aid the Seneca Valley Cross Country team.  Wrice, an Instructor of Social Sciences at Wayne State College in Nebraska, is also a director of Guide Runners, an organization which provides training and guide assistance for visually impaired athletes to complete in short and long distance running events.
 
Be still my foolish heart.  Eighty-five local residents stopped by Council Chambers one Saturday in November for a quick orientation class on recognizing sudden cardiac events and what to do about them until an ambulance arrives.  The 20-minute one-on-one sessions, organized by the Cranberry EMS with support from UPMC, the American Heart Association, Cranberry Township, and EMSI – the local certifying body for EMTs and paramedics – was offered free of charge.  Mannequins provided by EMSI were used to simulate the hands-only CPR pumping technique which can offer life-saving support for the few minutes it may require before an ambulance crew reaches the patient and takes over.  More comprehensive classes in CPR are planned throughout the year by the Cranberry EMS.  Cost for full certification is just $30.  Call the station at 724-776-4380 to register.

Power rescue.  The most serious risks facing EMS workers do not come from the frequently hazardous scenes in which they operate, nor do they come from exposure to the diseases carried by patients.  Instead, they come from back injuries which can result from lifting overweight patients onto stretchers and gurneys.  To help limit that risk, Cranberry EMS recently acquired two motorized ambulance cots which use a battery-powered hydraulic system to raise and lower patients weighing as much as 750 pounds at the touch of a button. The cots, made by Stryker, a leading maker of patient transportation products, cost $11,000 apiece; back injuries cost the agency an average of $12,000 each. 

EMS launches subscription drive.  Riding in an ambulance is not like riding a limo – it’s much more expensive.  In fact, a normal ambulance run costs at least $400, and it can easily escalate to well over $1,000.  Someone has to pay that cost.
The Cranberry Township Emergency Medical Service on Thomson Park Drive is Cranberry’s officially designated 9-1-1 ambulance responder.  But it is not a taxpayer-financed service like the Township’s police department.  Instead, it is an independent nonprofit organization whose staff salaries, rent and equipment expenses are paid through a combination of insurance claims, service fees, donations and subscriptions.  However, insurance payments typically only cover a portion of the cost; the balance is billed to the patient.

To help maintain its 24/7 service and keep it affordable, the EMS has launched a subscription drive where, for an annual fee ranging from $40 to $60, anyone in Cranberry or the surrounding area with a medical necessity for ambulance transportation will receive that service without either a deductible or co-payment, regardless of how often that service is required. 
The EMS website, www.cranberrytownshipems.org includes details about subscription rates and services.

Parks hunker down.  Cranberry’s three major parks are generally buttoned down and closed up during the winter months to protect their soggy turf.  Only a select group of areas remain open year-round – the sled riding hill in North Boundary Park, the Lindner Practice Field in Community Park, the Rotary Dog Park, and the walking trails in Graham Park.  This year is no exception.  But a construction project in Graham Park, involving excavation to install a new sewer mainline which cuts across the park just south of the Mashuda Bridge over Brush Creek, will limit access to even those spaces which are technically available for use in the winter. 

Winter survival tips.  If someone in your home has an emergency this winter, there are steps you can take ahead of time to help.  For example, in the event of heavy snow, make sure your address is visible from the street.  Clear snow from around fire hydrants; it will reduce the time it takes fire company volunteers to put out the flames.  Clear an approach to your house from the street so EMS can reach you in case of a medical emergency.  If you use a log-burning fireplace, have it inspected every few years; chimney fires are a frequent problem in the winter.  Test your smoke detectors and make sure their batteries are fresh.  If you’re expecting a package delivery to your home when no one’s there, remember that a package on your porch is an invitation to theft.  Request deliveries that require a recipient signature, or arrange for packages to be delivered to your workplace.  And be sure to conceal any valuables you leave in your car which can be seen from outside; they’re also a temptation to break-ins. 


Preparing for disasters

State and federal government agencies got reasonably high marks for their response to Hurricane Sandy’s destructive swipe along the New York, New Jersey shoreline – certainly much higher than for the official response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.  Even so, thousands of east coast residents were obliged to fall back on their own resources for days or even weeks on end following the storm. 

“Government is not going to be the answer in a major event,” advises Jeff Schueler, Cranberry’s Public Safety Director.  “I’m particularly thinking of winter storms with power outages.  We see what happened in New Jersey and we’ve got to get through to our residents that they have to be prepared – that we just can’t provide for all their needs in case of a major event.

“We don’t have the resources to provide their food.  We don’t have the resources to provide their water.  We can’t provide their medicine.  We can’t provide everything else they need to sustain themselves,” he said.  “We don’t have that.  They need to be prepared.  The primary focus of our emergency workers will be on dealing with people who are in immediate risk of death or injury.  So you should keep at least three of food, water, and medicine on hand. 

“With Sandy, you’re talking about weeks without electricity.  That could happen here with a major winter storm, or with any natural disaster.  Even when it’s over, it could take several days to get food and other supplies into the hands of our residents.”

Of course, local residents wouldn’t be the only victims when a natural disaster strikes.  The same misfortunes would also affect first responders, their homes and their families.  “Before we deploy our people, we make sure everyone understands that their prime responsibility is to take care of their own family – to make sure they’re all safe so they can do what needs to be done, and to understand that when they come to work, it might be a 14, 16, 18, 24-hour shift, based on what might have happened.  And keep in mind that all of our fire company members are volunteers who also hold down full-time jobs.” 

With public safety systems overwhelmed, residents should expect significantly delayed responses.  Having a working knowledge of first aid along with the supplies required to administer it, could become essential life-saving resources, particularly where injuries are involved.  There are a number of high quality checklists posted online, but all of them share one central message: that personal-preparedness is fundamental to surviving a natural disaster. 

“In the case of Hurricane Sandy, our Fire Company got phone calls from residents requesting generators,” Schueler recalled.  “Well, we don’t provide generators; we don’t have the resources.  People call and say they need oxygen; how are they going to keep getting their oxygen?  We don’t have a good answer; that’s something they’ve got to think about and prepare for themselves.  Cranberry EMS has only a limited stockpile of oxygen cylinders.”

Any community’s exposure to disaster depends on its location.  For Cranberry, the systems most vulnerable to winter storms are its roads, its electrical service, and its communication cables – many of which would result from fallen trees.  “In New York and New Jersey, a lot of complaints were directed to the utility companies that their crews weren’t working long enough,” Schueler said.  “Well, there are regulations; they can only work so long.  You’re dealing with serious issues here and crew members need to get some rest. 

“We can’t rebuild the infrastructure overnight.  It’s going to take time, and people have to be prepared for that.” 
The Emergency Management page on Cranberry’s website includes a wealth of valuable information.  Go to www.cranberrytownship.org/emergency

Essential supplies for major storm survival
• Water in plastic containers – at least a gallon per person a day
• Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable items
• First Aid kit – pre-packaged kits are widely available
• Radio, flashlight, knife, matches, batteries, plastic bags, cash
• Clothes, boots, blankets, towels
• Prescriptions and personal need items
• Copies of essential documents

New home planned for Cranberry EMS

After more than twenty years confined to cramped quarters on Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry EMS is gearing up for a move into a new and larger home for its 24/7 operations, right next door to Cranberry’s Community Park fire station on Rt. 19, before the end of this year. 

“We currently have five pieces of equipment,” EMS Executive Director Jeff Kelly explained, referencing its four ambulances and one administrative sedan.  “Two of them sit outside because we only have a three-bay station.  The spec for the new building calls for a six-bay station.  It’s pretty basic, but it will have bedrooms, a day room, and eat-in areas – everything to accommodate the eight daytime personnel we currently have on staff.  And we anticipate having ten or eleven in the next couple of years, so it’s definitely being built with some growth in mind.” 

The ambulance service, which was formed in 1969 as a unit of Cranberry’s volunteer fire company, eventually emerged as an independent organization with a largely paid staff, financed through a combination of subscriptions, patient insurance, direct billing, and community donations.  But while the EMS is both legally and operationally separate from the Township, every municipality in Pennsylvania is obliged, under state law, to provide its residents with ambulance as well as fire service – either through its own employees or by appointing an outside entity.  As a result, the Township has worked closely with the EMS – formerly known as the Cranberry Volunteer Ambulance Corps – to help support the organization’s life-saving mission.  It wasn’t always that way.

Several years ago, following a period of strained relations resulting from organizational and financial deficiencies in the Corps, Cranberry Township and its ambulance service began to reconcile – a process which has continued to expand and deepen.  For residents, the improved rapport has not only resulted in higher levels of emergency service, it has also involved EMS personnel in public outreach efforts including CPR training and child safety seat instruction, as well as in low-cost first aid certification programs. 

For the EMS organization, it has resulted in a renewal of its appointment as the Township’s designated ambulance service, improved its coordination with the Township’s police department and fire company, and work on renewing its service agreement early this year.  That agreement spells out performance and practice benchmarks detailing the Township’s EMS service level expectations.  In return, the Township will finance a new 7,500 square foot structure and lease it to the ambulance company in five-year increments at below-market rates. 

“We may see a need in the future to have a second location or to change what we call our deployment status,” Kelly pointed out.  “The way we do things now is called a Static Deployment; you hang out at the station and wait for a call; when the call comes in, you go.  In the future, there might be an opportunity to do what’s called Dynamic Deployment, where a crew would come to the base, collect their supplies, check out their ambulance, and then stand by at another location in town for eight, ten, or twelve hours. 

“But everything we currently do or anticipate doing operationally over the next 8, 10, 12 years would be housed at the new facility.  There should be no reason for us to do anything else.”

 
Firefighter Profile:  Paul Brown’s Choir

Throughout his career as a video engineer, setting up high-end television production units for clients, firefighter Paul Brown liked nothing more than to walk into an unfinished studio, with pieces of electronic gear scattered around him, and then to start pulling them together. 

“I love the work.  It’s really rewarding to go into this big dark room, full of equipment, and start turning things on,” Brown explained.  “It’s like working with a choir; you walk into the room and everybody’s talking to themselves.  It’s just a cacophony and you have red lights all over the place.  Then you begin and get one piece of equipment to work.  And then you make it talk to another piece of equipment.  And before long, you have all these pieces working together.  The red lights start going out, and it starts to hum.  It’s not a cacophony anymore; it’s a chorus.  It’s music to my ears.” 

It is a form of music which, over the years, carried Brown from a technician’s job at Ohio University’s TV station to the production house TPC in Pittsburgh, to his own video services company, to McKesson Automation, to overseas assignments for the European Broadcast Union, and finally to client sites all over the country as an installation and test engineer for STI, a company in Southpointe which went out of business several years ago.

In the late ‘60s, as a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran returning home to Athens, Ohio, Brown trained as an Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff.  In Ohio, Sheriffs are their counties’ top law enforcement officers.  Brown’s father, a former Ohio State Patrolman, had just been elected County Sheriff.  So Paul would accompany his father’s deputies, typically on nights and weekends, criss-crossing the rural expanse of Athens County.  It was interesting work, but it didn’t last. 

When the lure of big-time television finally drew him to Pittsburgh and to settle in Cranberry, he stopped by the Township’s police department to inquire about continuing his work as an auxiliary police officer.  But Cranberry had no such program.  So he checked into the Fire Company, which welcomed him, and where he has remained for the past 25 years, accumulating a drawer full of diplomas for Vehicle Extrication, Hazardous Materials, Driver Training, Drivers Testing, Rope Rescue, and more along the way that he can’t even recall offhand. 

Today, with his work as a TV engineer largely behind him, Brown is more likely to be found applying his mechanical skills and passion for electronics in Cranberry’s Fire Company – programming its radio equipment, calibrating its poison gas sensors, controlling its water hose pumps, and navigating its engines through traffic en route to emergency calls. 

A widower whose two grown daughters have children of their own, Brown’s personal schedule is now more forgiving than at any time in his working life.  As a result, he is typically available to answer daytime 9-1-1 calls.  That’s a huge advantage because regular work hours are the hardest for any volunteer fire company since fewer firefighters are free to respond.  And in Cranberry, unlike many smaller communities, there are a lot of calls. 

“That’s bad news for the people who have emergencies,” Brown admits, “but it’s good news for the fire company because it keeps members coming back.  The fire companies in other areas who do bingos, pork and bean dinners, and all that other stuff – when you only have 100 calls a year and you’re at work for 90 of them – it’s not really rewarding to be in the fire company.  But with all the calls we have, it keeps people interested.”

Even so, the highlight of Brown’s year with the Fire Company doesn’t actually come with fighting fires.  It comes in mid-November.  That’s when he festoons the Township’s 1981 brush fire truck with decorative lights and jumps behind the wheel to deliver Santa to the Municipal Center for the annual holiday season kickoff and tree lighting. 

“It’s got red lights.  The kids are excited.  The lights flash,” he reflected.  “Everybody’s happy.”


Playtime Palace to be replaced by Kids Castle playground

Community Park’s signature structure, the heavily used and much-loved Playtime Palace playground near the park’s main entrance, will pass into retirement this spring.  However, if all goes as planned with fundraising efforts now underway, by fall it will be reborn as Kids Castle, a Cranberry Uniting Playground – a larger, safer, more varied facility offering imaginative play for children, together with peace of mind for accompanying parents.  Why?

Ten years ago, a professional playground inspector was retained to conduct an audit of Playtime Palace.  The inspector’s report, released in August 2003, identified a series of issues affecting the structure which required Township attention.  They included maintenance issues such as decaying support posts, splitting and splintering wood, worn parts, sharp edges, and insect infestations.  Equally important, however, was the playground’s failure to meet current safety standards as a result of its original design.  These included various hiding places which offer little visibility to supervising adults, a hot steel slide, swing sets encroaching into walkways, and swings built with multiple seats per bay.

Although both Township employees and local volunteers have repeatedly struggled to keep ahead of the playground’s maintenance issues, the cost and effort associated with its upkeep continued to climb as the structure aged.  And its design deficiencies remained a concern.  As a result, by last year, re-imagining and replacing the 22-year old structure was determined to be the most practical solution.  But its cheerful role in the lives of Cranberry children for more than a generation – many of whom are now parents themselves – will not soon be forgotten.

Materials salvaged from the venerable wood creation, which grew out of a community-wide design, funding, and construction effort in 1990, will be recycled and re-purposed in the construction of its 21st century successor.  The new Kids Castle playground, whose design was developed by a citizens group determined to create a play experience to rival or exceed Playtime Palace – was designated as the 2013 CTCC Project of the Year.

So what will it be like?

Soon after entering the playground beneath an archway which incorporates the old Playtime Palace clock tower design, visitors approach a circular stone stage surrounded by terraced steps.  From there, they can go into any of three thematic play areas, contoured and outfitted with equipment corresponding to Cranberry’s past, present, and future.  Landscaping which includes picnic tables, benches, play lawns and decorative pathways connect the various play areas on a plot which is three times larger than the nearby Playtime Palace site.  It will also be handicap accessible, with a newly constructed restroom nearby, and designed with the needs of children ages two through twelve uppermost in mind.

The new playground, like the one it replaces, will be a community effort with an emphasis on local fund raising.  A corps of neighborhood Playground Fundraising Coordinators, or PFCs, is currently being recruited to collect individual and business donations.  In addition, Cranberry CUP has pledged $175,000 toward Kids Castle, and CTCC has pledged another $50,000. 

“If we want to begin construction this summer, we’ll need to raise another $250,000 by June from residents and businesses,” according to Bruce Mazzoni who, in addition to serving as Chairman of Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors, is a member of the playground committee.  The fundraising program will offer an assortment of incentives and donor recognition methods which acknowledge gifts ranging from $25 to $50,000 or more.

PFC’s: Playground Point Persons

The central players in Cranberry’s game plan for its new playground are PFCs – local Playground Fundraising Coordinators who can bring the case for supporting the project to their neighbors, face-to-face.  PFC volunteers will help spread the word by discussing the playground with fellow residents, with local businesses, and by holding in-home fundraisers.  Using email and personalized letters – along with marketing material provided by CTCC – PFCs will be instrumental in raising $250,000 in community support required to build the park this summer. 

PFCs do not need to handle money; all donations are to be written as checks, payable to “CTCC-Playground.”  CTCC – Cranberry Township Community Chest – is a 501(c)3 organization to which gifts are considered tax-deductible by the IRS.  Nor do PFCs have to spend any money out of pocket; all of their expenses will be covered by CTCC.

Best of all, both the PFCs and the neighborhoods they represent will be recognized at the playground itself with permanent paving blocks placed by the playground entrance.  To find out more about becoming a PFC, contact Bruce Mazzoni at or call 724-776-4806 x1103.

Recognizing Donors

Gifts from individuals and groups will drive the playground’s construction schedule.  The sooner a gift is received, the sooner the playground can open.  All donations of $25 or more will receive recognition in the CTCC Annual Report.  But to encourage early giving, CTCC is offering a five percent discount through April 15 on each of the following permanent recognition items:

• $20,000 to $50,000:  Playground equipment named for the sponsor
• $25,000: Time capsule (only one available) 
• $10,000:  Picnic table and plaque
• $5,000:   Bench and plaque
• $2,500:  Tree with marble etched tile
• $1,000:  Stepping stone
• $500:  engraved 8” x 8” paver
• $250:  engraved 4” x 8” paver
See the entire list of recognition items at www.CTCChest.org


Speaking of science…...By Linda Andreassi, Seneca Valley School District Communications Director

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

By now you have most likely heard media reports or read industry news referring to STEM and the related initiatives that many corporations and post-secondary institutions are encouraging schools to implement for the benefit of students and their futures. It’s with good reason.

 “Many companies are finding it difficult to find individuals who can adequately fill the jobs that they have available, said David Lowe, an advanced placement biology teacher in the Seneca Valley Senior High School. “What better way to get students interested in these career fields and increase their level of training than to introduce them to STEM education early on in their schooling.”

After reading the data and listening to the researchers, Seneca Valley officials are heeding the call. As a result, staff members, including Mr. Lowe and Mr. Dean Walker, a senior high school physics teacher and science department chairperson, have been working hard to build a Science Honors Society that will help to increase and enrich the opportunities for students in the fields of STEM. In addition to serving as a lab assistant and tutor, members of the society can participate in a STEM Fair and attend a monthly speaker series.

“The organization has been formed to be a one-stop shop to promote to our students the incredible opportunities available to them in science beyond the walls of the classroom,” said Mr. Walker. 

The speaker series, hosted in the senior high school auditorium, provides students with the opportunity to hear individuals who offer insight on working in a particular STEM field. Lecturers also share their personal experiences and their particular pathway to becoming an expert in their field. It is the hope of the Seneca Valley Science Honor Society that students will take the opportunity to reach out to these individuals and explore the possibility of immersing themselves in the field.

According to Mr. Lowe, the STEM lecture series bridges the gap between schooling and career so that students have a better sense of the exciting careers that await them. “We hope students will take the opportunity to further network with these individuals and explore opportunities to job shadow or intern in their particular area of interest,” he added.

Previous lecturers included a software engineer with extensive background in computer science and mathematics and job experiences at Typesafe, Google and Johns Hopkins. He has worked on a number of projects ranging from detecting security and performance anomalies in virtual machines to classifying pandemic disease outbreak using water samples and school absentee reports. 

 “We have an amazing and, until recently, relatively untapped resource in this district: our community experts,” explained Mr. Walker.  “Seneca Valley sits in a hot spot of innovation and opportunity in the STEM fields.  We invite these experts to join us, whether in the form of internships, mentoring, or just speaking about their experiences, for the benefit of our students and their futures.”

For more information or to express interest in presenting at a future lecture, please email David Lowe, senior high school AP biology teacher, at or visit the SV Science Honor Society’s website at www.svsd.net and click on “Science Honors Society” under the Activities tab.