Community leaders, school district officials throughout the county and representatives of the United Way of Indiana County brainstormed student meal plans to assure food service to all children while the schools observe a state-mandated closing through the end of the month.
United Way Director Jane Lockard-Clawson reported that the seven Indiana County- based school districts have laid out their own plans specific to location and resources, but all feature drive-through meal pickup service as the key to distribution.
“Additional support includes community-wide efforts offering staff and volunteers to assist with distribution, freezer blankets and facilities for food storage and various transportation options,” Lockard-Clawson reported. “Every effort is being taken to ensure that the needs of the community’s children are met.”
Individually, the organizations represented at the conference will announce their specific plans when they are formed.
Lockard-Clawson said the statewide PA 211 database is a clearinghouse for current information on available services during the coronavirus epidemic, including utility assistance, senior citizen programs, emergency food, disaster relief and youth programs.
Residents may dial 211 or (888) 553-5778 for information and assistance 24 hours a day.
The coalition also called for individuals to volunteer when and where possible during the outbreak.
“This pandemic not only affects the students in their communities but … (impacts) other vulnerable community members,” Lockard-Clawson said. As the agency and community representatives address immediate and long-term needs caused by the pandemic, “please keep in mind that many local organizations need volunteers. If you have the capacity to volunteer in your community, please reach out to your local organization and see if you can help.”
She reported that the United Way Emergency Fund also is accepting donations for disaster needs throughout the county. Donors may contribute online at the United Way of Indiana County page on Facebook or by mail to the United Way, 655 Church St., Suite 114, Indiana, PA 15701.
“People coming together as a community can make things happen. We are better together and will get through this,” Lockard-Clawson said.
The Indiana County court system has made changes in scheduling and procedures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in accordance with public health officials’ recommendations of social distancing, minimizing large gatherings and practicing the principles of good hygiene.
The Court of Common Pleas in the county courthouse has canceled the trials and jury selection scheduled for Monday, March 23, the court administrator’s office reported.
“Any party required to attend a scheduled court proceeding is requested to limit the number of observers attending,” the court announced. “If a party is sick and cannot attend a proceeding, please contact the court administrator’s office at (724) 465-3955; the court will decide rescheduling requests on a case-by-case basis. Those individuals represented by an attorney should contact the attorney to notify the court.”
In further efforts to protect the health and safety of all courthouse employees and area residents, “Any citizen having any business to conduct at the Indiana County Courthouse should call (724) 465-3800 prior to visiting. You may be able to conduct your business via telephone or other option.”
All proceedings at the four magisterial district courts — in Indiana, Homer City, Blairsville and Clymer — have been canceled through April 14. Preliminary hearings of criminal charges against incarcerated defendants will be conducted by online video with defendants at the county jail and the district judges in their offices.
The court administrator reported that “the district court offices will remain open for other business except for the acceptance of payments. For any party that is required to make a payment to a magisterial district court, the use of PAePay is suggested. Please visit https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ePay/Default.aspx.”
Payments also will be accepted by mail but no in-person payments will be accepted until after April 14.
The Indiana County commissioners empowered themselves to go around regular procedures for public spending in order to quickly address county needs during the coronavirus outbreak.
The board on Monday declared a disaster emergency, which authorizes the county to suspend procedures such as advertising and accepting bids, purchasing supplies and materials, renting equipment, entering into contracts and hiring temporary workers for the performance of public work required to meet the emergency.
The commissioners’ declaration also directs the Indiana County Emergency Management coordinator to manage the emergency response, “to take all appropriate action needed to alleviate the effects of this disaster, to aide in the restoration of essential public services and to take any other emergency response action deemed necessary to respond to this emergency.”
Jimmy Stewart Museum
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana has shut its doors for the next two weeks and leaders will reassess the status on Wednesday, April 1, museum director Janie McKirgan reported Monday. The museum will post updates online at www.jimmy.org.
In the name of public health and safety, Indiana County’s volunteer fire departments have been asked by the president of the Indiana County Fire Chiefs Association to call off all fundraising events for at least the next two weeks.
Mel Benamati urged departments to cancel bingo games, gun bashes, hoagie sales, other moneymaking ventures and to halt rentals of their fire stations to outside groups.
“We as fire departments have a commitment to protect the health, safety and well-being of the people we serve in our respective areas,” Benamati wrote to fire officials. “Please totally sanitize your facility and close the doors.”
Clymer Borough officials have announced the closure of the municipal building, the tax collector’s office and the borough parks until further notice. Tax payments and water bill payments may be deposited in a drop box at the borough office along Adams Street. Borough homeowners, taxpayers and others may reach the offices by email or by telephone during regular business hours.
Indiana Borough Council still is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. today in its chambers in the basement of the municipal building.
Meanwhile, borough officials said they continue to monitor evolving developments relating to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
In an effort to protect members of the community and borough employees, borough officials said they will limit entry into their offices, effective immediately. Borough offices will remain open and staff will be working, but the municipal building lobby will be closed to the public for the remainder of March.
“Walk-in” utility customers will be asked to use the drop-off box located in the entryway of the building to make payments. Customers can also make payments online or mail in their payment. Call (724) 465-6691 for assistance.
Appointments for building permits may be made by calling the same number.
Codes Department inspections will be temporarily halted and rescheduled after May 1.
The Indiana Borough Police Department will be accessible, as they are now, via using the red phone in the entryway.
The borough parking garage will remain open.
The Planning Commission and Shade Tree Commission public meetings for the month of March have been canceled.
The remainder of public meetings are still scheduled to occur, but officials said any or those other meetings may be rescheduled or cancelled in the future.
The borough said general questions may be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and officials will work to provide a timely response.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg is taking additional coronavirus-related actions.
Bishop Edward C. Malesic said there would be no more public Masses until further notice, starting Wednesday.
However, the bishop said, where possible, churches will remain open for private prayer. He also said that fish fries and other public activities in diocesan churches would be suspended, and that he would prefer that attendance at baptisms, funerals and weddings be scaled back to immediate family.
Wine & Spirits stores
After consulting the Wolf Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said it will close all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores, effective at 9 p.m. today, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Sales at www.FineWineAndGoodSpirits.com ceased at 5 p.m. Monday.
“We understand the disruption our store closures will have on consumers across the commonwealth,” said PLCB Chairman Tim Holden. “But in these uncertain and unprecedented times, the public health crisis and mitigation effort must take priority over the sale of wine and spirits, as the health and safety of our employees and communities is paramount.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said all driver license centers and photo license centers in Pennsylvania, including the one in the Indiana Mall, will be closed for two weeks.
Additionally, expiration dates in March for driver licenses, identification cards, vehicle registrations and safety and emission inspections will be extended until April 30.
Also, all PennDOT district and county maintenance offices are closed, and construction projects have been suspended until further notice. However, PennDOT crews are available to perform critical functions and emergency maintenance as needed.
PennDOT said customers may complete various transactions and access multiple resources via the Driver and Vehicle Services at www.dmv.pa.gov website.
State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that all facilities at state park and forests, including Yellow Creek in Indiana County, will be closed for 14 days effective today to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
She said the public will still be able to access trails, lakes, forests, roads, and parking areas for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking.
“However,” Dunn said, “all of the buildings at state parks and forests, including the park and forest offices and all restrooms, will be closed and all events and public educational programs are canceled.”
Center Township Tax Collector Monica Jones has announced that her office at 31 Tillo Lane will not be taking walk-in customers through April 1 out of caution about the coronavirus. Anyone with questions should call (724) 479-2840.
Shelocta Presbyterian Church has canceled Wednesday’s Friendsday, a free community lunch that was to be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the church.
The local American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) retirees group, Subchapter 8301, has canceled its meetings scheduled for March 26 and April 23.
The Indiana County Historical and Genealogical Society has postponed the Irish Sing-along that was set for Friday. The society has also postponed the annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day Program that was set for March 29. Both programs will be rescheduled at a later date.
For updates, call (724) 463-9600.
Art Association workshop
The Indiana Art Association has canceled the Introduction to Plein Air Painting workshop with Jolene Joyner on April 25.
Marion Center school lunches
Marion Center Area School District’s Nutrition Services will operate a free school breakfast and lunch program for children ages 1 to 18 during the school closure.
Free breakfast and lunch packs will be provided to families on Wednesday for the remainder of this week and Monday for the following week.
Pickup locations will be at W.A. McCreery Elementary School at the pool/cafeteria entrance and at Rayne Elementary School in the front circle from 8 to 11 a.m.
To order meals, please call (724) 397-5551, ext. 5408, with your name, pick up location and the number of children ages 1-18 within your home.
Meals for this week need to be ordered by noon today.
Orders for the following week will be needed by Friday at noon.
This program will be solely for the pickup of meals, and meals may not be consumed on site.
Families are encouraged to be proactive in reducing the risk of COVID-19 by not congregating at the school site once meals have been distributed.