John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport

John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport on June 15, 2021.

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – An effort to bolster a John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport business development zone for future growth received a $1.5 million boost this week.

And state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds will also support Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Company’s decade-long effort to build a new station, and expand two family-focused Somerset County locations – a YMCA camp in Elk Lick Township and a Learning Lamp child care center in Somerset Borough.

State lawmakers announced $5.8 million in projects spanning from Loretto to southern Somerset County this week, in a follow-up to more than $2.5 million in Johnstown projects already announced this week, including work to revamp Main Street and Bottle Works’ Tulip Building.

Among the largest awards, Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Company was awarded $2.3 million to demolish its current station and replace it with one that will include bunk rooms, showers and a second-floor banquet hall.

Fire station project

Fire company President Stephen Yarina said the department – and even moreso its fleet of apparatus – outgrew its current Adams Avenue station a decade ago.

Trucks that once were 25 feet long are now 34 feet long – and despite four expansions since the late 1940s, the structure remains cramped.

But solving their issues carries a hefty price tag, he said.

“This funding – it’s the most important step we’ve crossed so far. Not only does it give us about half of the money we need ... but it also will make it easier to cover the rest of it,” he said, noting that a community funding campaign, a loan and applications for federal aid are all likely to be planned.

Yarina thanked state Rep. Frank Burns, state Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Richland Township, and Jackson Township supervisors, who signed off on the application, for playing roles in landing the RACP funds.

Burns, D-East Taylor Township, said investments such as the fire hall expansion can “transform” a community.

He said he put his support behind the project after meeting with fire officials earlier in 2022.

Airport effort

Cambrian Hills Development LLC received $1.5 million toward a more than $4.4 million “shell hangar” development project at the Johnstown airport.

The effort is part of a larger development agreement that would task Cambrian Hills with developing and marketing single and multi-parcel segments within a sprawling Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone. The state-created zones were designed to spark job creation and business development within the corridors while receiving certain tax benefits.

“The whole goal is to attract businesses and new job creation at the airport – and this agreement ensures we’re doing it in a coordinated manner,” Airport Manager Cory Cree said.

Cambrian Hills includes the airport’s contracted fixed-base operator, Larry Nulton, who helps lead property development efforts throughout the airport-owned property.

The hangar would be designed as flexible for aviation-related businesses, warehouse and distribution facilities, and aviation-related technology and manufacturing facilities, grant application details show.

It’s one of several new hangars airport officials are pursuing to create sought-after space on the property.

“Improving infrastructure will recruit and retain vital industries, creating more workforce opportunities,” Langerholc said. “This funding will drive economic growth for the airport and surrounding communities.”

Cree said airport officials plan to meet with Cambrian Hills in the future to discuss potential next steps on developing the hangar.

In Somerset County, Highland Ventures also received more than $500,000 to design and develop access roads, utility needs and pads for the development of a commercial area in Middlecreek Township.

Arts and recreation

The Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp’s Lake-view Lodge expansion was one of three Somerset County projects funded this week.

The $500,000 will support a plan to double the lodge’s current space, adding camper rooms and in-suite bathrooms as well as heating and cooling systems to allow for four-season camping, a RACP funding list shows.

The 742-acre camp, located at the base of Mount Davis in southern Somerset County, is operated by YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

The YMCA of Indiana County also received $2 million this week to revamp its White Township facility.

In Loretto, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art will receive $500,000 to renovate the museum and replace the current roof, address drainage issues and repair the exterior brick masonry.

The project will also improve accessibility by adding a new entrance, replacing the HVAC system and updating aging infrastructure.

“The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art has been part of our community for almost 50 years, offering informative programs, events and many exhibitions at one of its five locations,” Langerholc said. “I am pleased to assist the museum in receiving this grant so they can continue to provide our public with educational experiences.”

Bottle Works in Johnstown received $500,000 as well toward renovating the Tulip Building and adding an adjacent pavilion.

More than 800 projects across the state sought RACP funding this cycle.

But only a portion win support, Burns and state Rep. Jim Rigby, R-Ferndale, said in separate announcements.

“I applaud these local officials for being proactive in support of their individual entities and communities,” Rigby said of the competitive funding process.

Child care expansion

Somerset County officials and The Learning Lamp have been working to find ways to expand child care in the county and a $500,000 award will support a key effort already underway.

The Learning Lamp broke ground in May on a renovation and expansion effort to designed to expand child care capacity from 60 children to 134, officials said at the time.

Grant application details show the project will include adding soundproof classrooms, efficient HVAC systems and new windows to maximize natural lighting. 

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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