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The Whole Truth

The following is a response written by a member of Relight the Lamp to another concerned citizen. For the entire conversation, click here.

There are a lot of rumors and a great deal of miscommunication of half truths with regard to the Lamp renovation. Folks who only have followed part of the story unwittingly contribute to the confusion.

The truth is that the Lamp Theater is not just a building. The decision to restore it represents a critical choice for the citizens of Irwin. The Lamp Theater is a part of our heritage. For those of us who have lived in Irwin all of our life it not only holds fond memories of our past but also contains bright promise for our future. To allow this vestige of our heritage to be lost would diminish our cultural community. Irwin’s downtown cannot compete with the “big box” store such as the blight which NHT has allowed near the turnpike. By accenting Irwin’s boutique stores and eclectic eateries, a vibrant and profitable downtown will be a bequest to the next generation.

Some facts about the project include:
* A state grant and a county grant (both $250K) are available for the restoration project. These will not sit there forever.

* In order to unlock that money, the borough must come up with $150K. Even if Irwin Borough had that money in their coffers, they would be prohibited by law from contributing more than one mil toward the project. Additionally, the borough council must weigh the fundamental needs of the taxpayers when making any financial decisions.

* The Westmoreland Cultural Trust which will operate the facility and is the end use owner committed resources at the front end of the project and was able to install HVAC, revamp the electrical service, rough in plumbing, etc. All of which are not visible from the outside.

Flames shoot from the Irwin Hotel, located on Main Street in Irwin on March 5, 2009.

* A fire at the Irwin Hotel set the Lamp project back due to over twenty holes put in the new roof and water damage in the Lamp. Electrical, roofing and other systems had to be redone. The Trust ran out of its budget when forced to redo the work. The hotel, naturally, did not have insurance to cover the damage.

* Concerned citizens with an eye to the future and a heart for the past formed a grassroots organization to raise awareness and start fundraising to cover the borough’s obligation of $150K. That group’s name is “Relight the Lamp” and has it’s own blog as well as a presence on Facebook. Those two sites will give the most recent updates on the progress. Through a variety of fundraising efforts this fall, the group will be collecting donations which will go toward offsetting the $150K needed to access the state and county grants. Not one dime of that money will be wasted or redirected.

* Relight the Lamp is coordinating their efforts with IBPA and the Irwin Main Street group as well as approaching area businesses and encouraging sponsorship opportunities.

* The Westmoreland Cultural Trust has hired an architect to finalize plans for the theater’s renovation with an end of year target date for submittal. The theater will be a multi-venue structure. Movies, live plays, musical performances will be held there. Think of the Palace in Greensburg only on a more modest scale.

Our work crew

* Any questions/rumors can be validated by contacting the Relight the Lamp group. Recently there was a rumor circulating that the borough was giving $600K to the Lamp while not being able to properly fund the Irwin police force. That is NOT true. The borough itself, as stated before, will not be committing any tax-payer funds to the project. All of the $150K will come from donations from businesses and the public at large. Volunteers will be supplying much of the labor in order to offset those costs.

While a recreation center is also a potential asset to the Norwin area, many of its services can be found in other places. Many of the citizens would support such a facility and become members. A great deal would not. I believe the question on the public’s mind is whether the rec center would ever be able to get enough membership to pay for itself. While that assessment is being made, I believe the governmental bodies will have a hard sell of making such a tax-payer based investment.

Please review all of the information available about both projects before making assertions with regard to them. Clear up rather than create more confusion when forming and expressing an opinion.


About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to

One response »

  1. Hello. I am very much interested in the Lamp Theater project. Having worked there until the day it closed (2005?), I have also been subject to hearsay, misinformation regarding the Lamp. I would like to be kept posted regarding progress, volunteer optys, etc. I would find this most interesting and enlightening. Keep looking up. RJD/


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