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Retirement community expansion helps meet growing demand

Unexpected circumstances can put adult children in the position of suddenly needing to make long-term accommodations for their parents, often without a clue as to how to proceed.

But foresight does prevail in some families.

One resident of Providence Point in Scott Township told his children about his decision to live in the Baptist Homes Society-operated retirement community.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Providence Point’s Hamilton Tower is scheduled to open in mid-October.

“I’m giving you this gift,” the resident said. “You don’t have to worry about it later and figure out what you’re going to do with me. I’m doing this now so that we can all acclimate and figure out how the rest of life is going to go.”

His story – passed along by Rachael Rennebeck, who provides public relations support for Baptist Homes Society – also reflects the desire of many Americans to actually enjoy their so-called golden years, which can turn out to last for quite a while.

“People are living longer,” she said. “So it’s even more important to recognize the fact that the sooner they get in, the more they can continue that life pattern and that lifestyle they’ve enjoyed.”

Enter places like Providence Point, which offers a long list of amenities to help make the transition from the family home as seamless as possible. The campus is marking the 10th anniversary of its construction as a complement to the nonprofit Baptist Home Society’s main location in Mt. Lebanon, which was founded in 1910.

Providence Point has helped meet the increasing demand for its type of community, to the point where “Phase Two” expansion began in June 2017 with a new chapel, completed the following winter. The overall project’s highlight is Hamilton Tower, scheduled to open Oct. 15 with 70 new apartments, bringing the total number of units in the complex to 326.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Providence Point boasts new carpeting, tiles and other improvements in advance of the opening of Hamilton Tower.

“In the meantime, to accommodate 70 units’ worth of more people coming in, we also did other updates, some of them to accommodate the bigger size of the community, and some of them just because of changing times,” said Marilyn Walsh, Baptist Homes Society director of marketing and public relations.

The Neville Room, the largest of Providence Point’s five dining locations, is undergoing remodeling to accommodate 30 more people, with an “exhibition cooking area,” where diners can see their dishes being prepared, as a focal point.

Next door is the Light Horse Lounge, a popular pre-dinner spot for appetizers and cocktails, now featuring an expansion of its own.

“One of the requests of residents was to enlarge the bar area,” Walsh said. “So we did.”

The names for both the rooms – Hamilton Tower, too – draw on Providence Point’s proximity to one of the key sites of the Whiskey Rebellion: Bower Hill, Gen. John Neville’s mansion, the historical marker for which is a short walk from the retirement community. The lounge takes its name from Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, who was called in to help quell the rebellion in 1794 and 13 years later had a son, Robert E., who made military history of his own.

On a 21st-century note, Providence Point also has expanded its information technology area, to accommodate all the advances that have occurred since 2009. Other updates include new carpeting, tiling and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

By popular demand, the bar area has been expanded in the Light Horse Lounge.

Meanwhile, the original Baptist Homes Society location is primed for some changes, as well.

“We are already planning our next steps,” Walsh said, with details to be announced.

Between the two campuses, the society strives to meet a growing scope of needs, including skilled nursing and memory care for those who require it, in addition to the active lifestyle Providence Point provides.

“We don’t need to go to a place to die,” said John Chamberlain, who works with Rennebeck on public relations. “We need to go to a place to live it up, and that’s really what we’re doing here. We want to get you in here earlier so that you do enjoy your later life.”

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

The “exhibition cooking area” in the Neville Room


News
Communities hoping there's no repeat of 2018 flooding

BRIDGEVILLE — Even as all hell was breaking out, Teresa Davis vividly recalls how the rising water that was inundating the kennel she operates on Baldwin Street in Bridgeville was strangely tranquil.

“It was very calm, still and black,” Davis said.

Until the evening on June 20, 2018, it had been a fairly routine day for Davis. A Wednesday, she had returned to her home in Upper St. Clair from the Canine Club when a call came that Baldwin Street was being overrun with water. All-day rain, capped by an almighty deluge shortly after 8 p.m., had caused nearby McLaughlin Run Creek to overflow. It caused water to spill into the street and the businesses and residences that line it. What Davis describes as “a tsunami” came roaring down Baldwin and slammed into the Canine Club. While 10 dogs that were being boarded at the Canine Club were rescued, five drowned in water that rose as high as eight feet.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

The interior of the Canine Club, a Baldwin Street business that was ravaged by June 20, 2018, flooding.

Those dogs were not the only casualties from flooding one year ago today that devastated parts of the South Hills. A 63-year-old Upper St. Clair woman was killed when she ventured out of her car, and was swept away by floodwaters. Her body was found the next day in Bridgeville. An Outback Steakhouse restaurant on McMurray Road in Upper St. Clair was destroyed, vehicles were lost, and scores of homes and residences sustained damage that is still being repaired 12 months later.

Meanwhile, officials have absorbed lessons from the flood and are trying to take steps to make sure another summer day where a couple of inches of rain falls in a couple of hours doesn’t wreak as much havoc.

Bethel Park is expanding its view of stormwater, according to Timothy Moury, a councilman in the borough. Council is “looking further up the watershed and (has) identified six possible projects,” he said via email. Moury added that council will be awarding contracts for three of the projects at its July meeting, and is in the design phase for additional projects in 2020. The borough is also scrutinizing its roads and streets to make sure they can adequately handle any future downpours.

“When you get nearly four inches of rain in less than one hour, it’s almost impossible to predict where the water will go,” Moury said. “We had homes get water that had never had any issues in the past on June 20, 2018.”

In the meantime, some houses on Bridgeville’s Baldwin Street remain empty, while some businesses have reopened. Davis is hoping that the Canine Club will be welcoming dogs again in the next few weeks. And Bridgeville officials are hoping to get grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to purchase homes and businesses from willing sellers on Baldwin Street, tear down the properties, and convert them to green space.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/The Almanac 

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Work progresses at the Trolley Stop Inn after the Bethel Park restaurant was flooded on June 20, 2018.

Buildings would be sold at their pre-flood values under the proposal, with FEMA paying 80 percent of the purchase price, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency covering the remaining 20 percent. Bridgeville is also looking at doing away with the baseball field in McLaughlin Run Park and making it a retention pond.

Mike Tolmer, the president of Bridgeville Borough Council, said his community is working with its neighbors to try to come up with long-term solutions to flooding woes.

“The landscape of our area has changed drastically,” Tolmer explained. “Weather is changing, there are more severe storms. ... It’s all of us. What can we do together to solve the problem?”

Observer-Reporter 

James Mehlmauer carries his cat, Adoria, while Jessica Carr walks with Minnie on Baldwin Street in Bridgeville. Mehlmauer and three other people were rescued by firefighters from his first-floor apartment when nearby McLaughlin Run flooded in June 2018.


News
Peters Township resident seeks update to nondiscrimination policy

With its establishment as a home-rule municipality in 1976, Peters Township adopted an administrative code that includes a policy against discrimination in employment practices, housing and public accommodation.

Four decades later, township resident Julie Cantrell is pursuing an update of the policy’s language to add “gender identity or sexual orientation” to a list that now includes the likes of race, age, religion, national origin and political affiliation.

Members of township council, though, are waiting to make a determination. At its June 10 meeting, council voted 5-1, with Monica Merrell opposing, to table Cantrell’s request to put the proposed policy change on an agenda until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on some relevant cases.

“Municipalities are not in the position to try and define protected classes,” Councilman David Ball said. “That’s a federal and state function. It’s before the Supreme Court, so whatever they decide to do is what we’re going to have to do.”

In April, the court agreed to hear cases from New York and Georgia to decide whether workplace protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 apply to gay people, and another from Michigan with regard to transgender people.

Peters Township’s employee handbook does contain “a statement that actually is a bit more expansive than the language that was in the code or ordinances,” township manager Paul Lauer told council.

For example, people with disabilities cannot be discriminated against, in accordance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

“Because protected classes can be somewhat dynamic, it also has a catchall that says, ‘any other characteristics protected by applicable federal and state law,’” Lauer said about the handbook statement. “My interpretation of that, given the guidance that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has given us, right now that does include gender and sexual orientation.”

Merrell said the language in the handbook and policy against discrimination should be consistent, and Lauer agreed.

“I do think the language that is in the handbook, that refers to any other characteristics protected by applicable federal and state law, is something that ought to be included” in the policy, he said.

Cantrell sent an email to Lauer June 3 requesting a council agenda item to amend the policy.

“It would then read: ‘No person in the employment of the township, or seeking admission thereto, shall be employed, promoted, demoted or discharged, or in any way favored or discriminated against because of political opinion or affiliation, or because of race, creed, color, age, sex, religion, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation,’” the email states.

During the audience comments portion of the meeting, Cantrell asked Peters officials to consider posting a nondiscrimination statement on the township website and publications such as calendars.

Cantrell suggested a statement which is based on one posted by Shenango Township, Lawrence County.

“Peters Township is committed to providing an environment that’s free from discrimination in employment and opportunity because of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, marital status, disability, veteran or draft status, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or age,” her suggested statement read.

Cantrell said it would not be an ordinance or anything township officials would have to enforce.

“It’s a statement saying that, as a township, we don’t discriminate,” she told council. “If we were able to do that, then I could see placing a stall or a hold on the nondiscrimination ordinance until we are able to get more information and maybe research that a little bit more.”

Resident Carolee Ketelaar, who had spoken in support of Cantrell’s requests at previous council meetings, said she agrees with the township taking such a measure.

“I think that’s really important for people of all ages, all types of people, to know, that they are welcome here, whether they live here, whether they shop here,” Ketelaar said.

Cantrell first approached council March 11 about changing the language of the nondiscrimination policy.

“In Pennsylvania, municipalities are legally empowered by the state to enact local LGBTQ equality laws and policies,” she said at that meeting. “The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of 1955 allows for cities, townships, boroughs, counties to pass nondiscrimination ordinances which exceed the state law.”

She quoted information from the website of the LGBTQ youth advocacy organization Pennsylvania Youth Congress, which currently states:

“As of April 2019, at least 55 of Pennsylvania’s 2,562 municipalities have passed LGBTQ-inclusive local non-discrimination ordinances. The residents of these municipalities amount to over 33 percent of Pennsylvania’s overall population (U.S. Census, 2015 estimates). Pennsylvania has the most number of LGBTQ-inclusive local nondiscrimination ordinances adopted of any state in the nation.”

Mt. Lebanon was among the municipalities, which adopted its ordinance in 2017.

Peters Township Council revisited Cantrell’s request April 22, when Lauer said concerns about discrimination against certain individuals are addressed best through federal and state laws, and the appropriate role for the township is to refer residents to appropriate agencies at those levels.

Solicitor John Smith, who researched the topic for a report to council, agreed and recommended against pursuing an ordinance to change the nondiscrimination policy.

At council’s May 28 meeting, Ketelaar asked that a task force be formed to investigate a nondiscrimination ordinance. Cantrell stated her agreement and requested that Smith’s report be made public.

She also has started a change.org petition calling for an LGBTQ-inclusive local nondiscrimination ordinance in Peters Township.