Wednesday’s Indiana County commissioners’ meeting was, as commission Chairman Rodney Ruddock noted, a mixture of emotional highs and lows.
The commissioners celebrated the success of the county’s youth at the recent county fair, then urged county residents to be more involved in reducing the incidence of suicide in the county.
As an expression of the importance of agriculture in the county’s economy and to show appreciation for the involvement of young people in many activities around the county, the commissioners congratulated twin brothers Justin and Jonathon Coleman, 11, of Saltsburg, who competed in the fair and won ribbons with their 4-H and FFA dairy cattle. The boys’ parents are John and Terri Coleman.
The boys’ success at the fair wascumented in photographs on display at the commissioners’ meeting, taken by Anthony Frazier, a data management specialist for the county.
The commissioners next congratulated the organizers of the 5K Walk for a Wonderful Life Sunday at the J.S. Mack Community Center, held as the local start of National Suicide Prevention Week.
Bonni Dunlap and Dr. Ralph May, co-chairs of the Indiana County Suicide Task Force, told the commissioners that about 500 people who participated in the walk raised more than $10,000 for suicide prevention efforts.
Cindy Vrana, one of the walk’s organizers, said the 5K was a “huge success” that helped make many people aware that suicide is becoming more of a problem.
The commissioners proclaimed this week as “Suicide Prevention Week” in Indiana County, and the proclamation read by commissioner Patricia Evanko noted that suicide is the 10th-leading cause of all deaths in the United States and the third-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24.
Also according to the proclamation, the county Suicide Task Force is dedicated to reducing the frequency of suicide attempts and deaths and the pain of survivors through educational programs, research projects, intervention services and bereavement services.
“The most important thing we want to do is raise awareness,” May said. “The education can never stop.”
Vrana said a concluding event to suicide prevention week will be a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Park, Indiana.
Byron Stauffer, director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, briefed the commissioners on efforts to secure Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone designation from the state for about 40 more acres of land in the county. The locations are the former Gorell Enterprises window manufacturing plant in White Township, the former PolyVision facility in Green Township and the former and now vacant Bi-Lo grocery store building in Blairsville.
KOEZ is an economic development tool that offers real estate tax and business tax abatements for 10 years to companies willing to set up operations on the sites.
Stauffer has been attending school board and municipal meetings to secure endorsements of the designation from those bodies. Within the next month or so the commissioners will be asked to endorse the designation as well.