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Peters Township updates transportation improvement program

Peters Township Council has approved an update to the municipality’s transportation capital improvement program, which three specific projects targeted for funding within the next five years.

Part of the local share comes from the traffic impact fee program enacted in 2008, as explained by township manager Paul Lauer during council’s Oct. 28 meeting.

“The township collects funds from developers as houses and commercial sites are being built,” he said. “Those funds are earmarked for a series of traffic improvements throughout the township.”

On the calendar for next year is construction of Rolling Hills Drive, the road through the former Rolling Hills Country Club property to access the new Peters Township High School, scheduled to open in early 2021, and a municipal park to be developed.

The township has earmarked $1 million from the traffic impact fee account toward the construction project, which also includes repositioning East McMurray Road slightly north of its current configuration, a measure intended to provide nearby residents with sufficient vehicular access to their homes.

Also, the state Department of Transportation has awarded final design contracts for improvements at two township intersections.

“We will be providing them with a match out of our traffic impact fees,” Lauer said.

Scheduled for 2023 is construction of a roundabout at Bebout and Valley Brook roads. The following year, work is scheduled on the intersection of East McMurray, Bebout and Thompsonville roads.

Council took action on revising the transportation capital improvement program at the recommendation of the Transportation Impact Fee Advisory Committee, which met Oct. 10 to review the program.

The committee’s recommendation last year was to set the traffic impact fee at $1,500 per new afternoon peak hour trip to be generated by a development.

The same fee is applicable to both the township’s Northern and Southern transportation service areas, as established by the original impact fee ordinance. Prior to 2018, the Northern area carried a higher rate than the Southern.

“Next year, we’ll be examining that fee,” Lauer told council. “And quite frankly, it could be much higher, but at the same time, you have to keep in mind it needs to stay competitive with others who have this same kind of fee in place.”

According to the Transportation Impact Fee Program 2019 update prepared by Michael Mudry, senior project manager for Traffic Planning and Design Inc. in Collier Township, the maximum allowable fee assessment is $6,343 per afternoon peak hour trip in the Northern TSA and $6,242 in the Southern.

The amounts are derived calculations specified under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, based primarily on cost factors for projects identified in the transportation capital improvement program.

Since the inception of the traffic impact fee, the township has collected nearly $1.75 million, of which the balance as of Aug. 31 was $1.07 million. Expenditures include more than $300,000 toward the Center Church Road improvement project and $100,490 in refunds for excess fee payments.

Friendship Village of South Hills opens $39.5 million addition

When Friendship Village of South Hills opened in 1984, Linda McCaig was on staff as its first activities director.

“Before our opening, the other directors were busy researching which high-tech computer or the best bus or food system to purchase,” she recalled. “I had the most important task of finding the biggest and the best bingo machine.”

On Oct. 22, she helped to celebrate the Upper St. Clair retirement community’s 35th anniversary in conjunction with a major milestone: the completion of a two-year, $39.5 million expansion and redevelopment project.

Now Friendship Village’s resident association president – she also worked in marketing for more than a quarter of a century before moving in – McCaig participated in cutting the ceremonial ribbon for an addition featuring 50 assisted-living apartments, 32 memory-support suites, three distinct dining venues and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

“With the opening of our new building today, I believe we’re securing our future in the marketplace, and I’m very excited about the opportunities we also have for ourselves should we need assisted living or memory care,” she said. “These are benefits we weren’t expecting.”

Joining McCaig as a speaker for the ceremony was Dr. Sarah Hamm, senior vice president of successful aging and health services for Lifespace Communities Inc., Friendship Village’s Iowa-based parent company.

“As you walk through and you tour the community this afternoon, I think you will all agree that this does not look like a typical health center or hospital in the United States, and that was very purposeful. We did not want this to be a medical model with any heavy nursing focus,” she explained. “We very much wanted this to be a very comfortable residential, homelike setting that focuses on social engagement and social interaction.”

Hamm spoke about the growing need for memory care services, noting that Alzheimer’s disease impacts more than 400,000 individuals in Pennsylvania, alone.

“Research indicates that about every 66 seconds in the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” she added.

As such, Lifespace leadership has planned accordingly for Friendship Village.

“We have invested in a wide variety of technology to improve resident care and quality of life,” Hamm said. “We have done extensive training with all of the team members who will be working in this community, not only in the nursing department. Your culinary team members, housekeeping, maintenance: Everyone who works in this community and touches the lives of our residents has undergone specialty training.”

Bryan Welty, Friendship Village of South Hills executive director, discussed what the retirement community now has to offer.

“These new levels of living will provide residents and their families greater peace of mind, knowing that Friendship Village is now committed to the full continuum of care, and it’s all on-site,” he said.

Attending the ceremony were numerous residents who were able to participate in various rounds of ribbon cuttings, after McCaig was the first to use the scissors.

She recalled the topic of discussion at one of her meetings with fellow staff members back in 1984.

“What could we do to make Friendship Village live up to its name? And you know, it’s really, really exciting to see that actually happened.”

Upper St. Clair physician pitches immune-boosting product on ‘Shark Tank’

Add another South Hills connection to ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank.”

The long-running series features Mt. Lebanon native Mark Cuban as one of the panelists who decide whether a product or service is worthy of investment. Dr. Sarath Malepati, who grew up in Peters Township and lives in Upper St. Clair, has recorded an episode that is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Nov. 3.

“At this stage, I can’t tell you too much about the show,” he said, avoiding a spoiler alert about how he fares.

The physician’s “Shark Tank” pitch is for EZC Pak, an over-the-counter supplement containing certified organic echinacea, zinc and Vitamin C to help boost immune function and serve as an alternative to inappropriate antibiotic use.

“We hope it helps promote the brand and drive more awareness of what we’re doing, maybe get people thinking about the appropriate use of antibiotics this cold-and-flu season,” Malepati explained.

Antibiotics fight bacterial infections, such as strep throat, some types of pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Yet the drugs often are prescribed for patients who are afflicted viruses, against which antibiotics have no effect.

And increasingly, they are becoming ineffective against a growing number multidrug-resistant bacteria, so-called “superbug” strains such as the staph infection MRSA and intestinal bacterium Clostridium difficile (C.diff).

In Malepati’s view, the increasing prevalence is attributable to “too much antibiotic exposure in our food supply and too much antibiotic usage in our healthcare system, doctors writing an excess amount of antibiotics when patients don’t need it.”

He said he started noticing the ramifications especially while working at high-volume trauma centers in California:

“More and more patients were coming into my care with these horrible infections, and basically I had to do kind of larger procedures, from extensive wound debridements” – removal of damaged tissue – “up to amputations. And more and more patients, unfortunately, were dying as a result.”

Malepati’s intention at that point simply was to recommend some type of product to his colleagues as an alternative to prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily, but he found nothing he considered to be suitable on the market. So he decided to come up with one of his own, to be formulated based on the best available clinical data.

He worked on research and development starting in 2013, first testing the product in international markets before bringing it to the United States. By the end of 2016, he had it for sale in 225 American pharmacies and some medical offices.

The following year, EZC Pak won an industry Buyer’s Choice award, a distinction it repeated in 2018, and the product experienced substantial growth in placement.

“I was only expecting to be in 2,000 doors last year,” Malepati said. “I ended up in over 8,000 doors.”

For 2019, his company, PPC Group, embark on a test launch in select CVS Pharmacy locations.

“The CVS test did well, and we’ve now doubled in store count again, to over 16,000 doors this year,” he reported, including Giant Eagle locations.

Now his objective is to increase sales:

“I have a lot of success in getting the product out there, but I think the gap continues to be basically brand awareness and education.”

The “Shark Tank” exposure should help with the former. And as far as the latter, Malepati has a history of trying to set the record straight, including a job early in his career at the National Institute for Health Care Management in Washington, D.C.

“My work at that time revolved around how flaws in design and delivery of health care contribute to patient disease and public health problems,” he said, citing the example of the evolution of the American system into a consumer-driven model, in which patient satisfaction has become of paramount importance.

“That has put a lot of pressure to provide a positive experience and give you whatever you want,” he explained.

And a lot of patients want antibiotics, regardless of their effectiveness or lack thereof.

“I need more educational materials to teach a patient the difference between a virus and bacteria, and I need more tangible solutions for when a patient comes in and requests an antibiotic, oftentimes by name,” Malepati said, referencing the effective marketing campaigns of some products.

He certainly supports appropriate uses for the drugs.

“Antibiotics are really important,” he asserted. “I’ve been part of saving many lives with antibiotics.”

The majority of infections, though, tend to be viral, and that’s when supplements that boost the immune system can be of assistance.

“I think EZC Pak is an important part of trying to be a solution for when patients do feel they need to take something,” Malepati explained. “That was the whole mission of the brand and the business.”