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Baby steps

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We have some news on the Lamp! In January, Irwin Council authorized borough manager Mary Benko to get an assessment of the property. At this week’s meeting, Irwin Council authorized her to apply for a loan in the amount of $150,000, the amount that needs to be ponied up in order to “unlock” the grant money from Westmoreland County and the state.

Though I unfortunately was unable to attend this meeting myself, it was well documented: 3 different reporters wrote up accounts. From the articles:

“The motion was not on the agenda. It later was added to the order of business following a nearly hour-long executive session, during which councilors discussed real estate and personnel matters.”

“Council approved the motion 6-0 on Wednesday.…Cassandro emphasized that council is not accepting money, nor are they making a commitment to refurbishing the 1937 theater — just considering it.”

“Mike Langer, cultural trust president, said bids to rehabilitate the theater came in between $300,000 and $400,000 higher than expected, and the project stalled.”

“‘We weren’t expecting bids to come in $300,000 over our budget,’ Cassandro said. ‘But we’re worried if we don’t move, that state and county funding may not be there much longer.…’ Cassandro said council plans to continue exploring the possibility of purchasing the 72-year-old structure, making the borough the sole owner of the theater. In January, council ordered an appraisal of the property, but has not discussed it publicly.”

Cassandro said the borough remains in negotiations to purchase the property.

“Nothing has changed hands,” Cassandro said. “It’s still an option. It’s still part of what we’re doing here. It’s also a historical landmark. It’s an important part of our history.

“I don’t think putting all this money into a theater, without us owning it, is even an option right now,” Cassandro said.

“We’re working on plenty of fronts here. We’re working on financing. We’re working on acquisition of the building. We’re working on the beginnings of operating the theater. None of that may even happen.

“We’re doing things that we have to do because if you don’t have them in place they’ll never get done. We’re taking this one step at a time. We’re not at the finish line yet.”

Relight the Lamp, a group formed in 2011 of Irwin area residents dedicated to reopening the entertainment venue, remains a part in the theater’s revival, Cassandro said.

Any questions? Lots, I know. Me too. But I’m glad that we’ve taken a couple of steps forward, even if they are baby steps.

What do you think?


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. Jennifer Dudik

    This is great news even if it is just a baby step!


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