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Tamaqua, Panther Valley


Congressman Tim Holden presents a $100,000 check to Coaldale Mayor Clarence Keich, at a ceremony outside the Coaldale Complex building this morning. The money will be used for roof repairs. Participating in the program were: Front, from left: Connie Caldonetti, Holden's district officer director; John Maruschak, councilman; Holden, Mayor John Radocha, Claire Remington, councilwoman; Nancy Gould, secretary of the Coaldale Complex Committee; Keich; Nancy J. Spiker, acting state director for Pennsylvania Rural Development. Rear, from left: Joe Hnat, chairman of the Coaldale Council Grant Committee; Mike McHugh, president of the Complex Committee; Harold Watkins, committee treasurer; John Terray, councilman and Bernard Szot, Coaldale grant coordinator.

$100,000 for Coaldale Complex

Federal funds approved for roof repairs


Congressman Tim Holden today presented a check for $100,000 to Coaldale Borough for roof repairs at the Coaldale Complex. The money came after a portion of the roof collapsed at the end of February, crashing into a classroom occupied by preschool children.

Holden, who represents Pennsylvania's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was instrumental in getting the roof repair on a fast track. Just days after the occurrence, Holden sent an aide to view the damage, said Harold Watkins, treasurer of the Coaldale Complex Committee, which operates the complex, owned by Coaldale Borough.

Holden's office had been in contact with the committee for the past several years in efforts to obtain funding for the project. Holden told the TIMES NEWS it was Connie Caldonetti, the district office director for Schuylkill and Northumberland counties that had pushed for the project. Caldonetti is a Coaldale native and a graduate of Coaldale High. Caldonetti said the process escalated when the roof collapsed and USDA was brought in.

The process that followed moved at lightning speed for government at any level. After only about four months, Holden was standing at the Complex this morning with an oversized check from the United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Program. At his side was Nancy J. Spiker, acting state director for Pennsylvania Rural Development.

"These monies will be used to install a new roof on the Coaldale Complex facility, a facility that houses numerous programs that are important to the community and its residents.

"People believe that USDA-Rural Development is only involved in production agriculture. However, they play a major role in rural development and this is a prime example of the vital role they play in assisting rural communities," Holden said.

Spiker noted, "It houses many important activities such as day care, Head Start, education, recreation and support programs that are important to maintaining a viable rural community." She added that the project also meets a state objective to rehabilitate existing buildings in small towns to avoid eating up farmland with new construction.

Members of borough council and the complex committee were on hand, still in somewhat of a state of shock over how fast it all happened.

"It's the fasted grant approval I've ever seen," said Councilman John Terray. Terray is a member of the borough's Grant Committee, which is chaired by Joe Hnat. Claire Remington is the third committee member. Hnat said that the Head Start program was located there had a great part in obtaining the grant. "Children from all over, not just from Coaldale benefit from Head Start," Hnat said.

The Coaldale Complex is the former Coaldale High School sitting on the corner of Phillips and Sixth streets, with a huge open space to the east and the south of the building. Between the big park formally known as the Joe "Chappy" Sharpe and Tom Raymer Field, and informally known as the Complex Field and the old school itself, the site has become a center of community life. Yesterday, the Coaldale 175th anniversary celebration had its kickoff festival there. A new building was put up on the field this year and council and borough youth have cooperated in a program that has put the youth in charge of juvenile conduct in the park.

Bernard Szot, the borough's grant coordinator, said, the total cost of the project will be about $170,000. While the USDA grant covers the cost of roof replacement, the additional $70,000 will be needed to start the project. The additional funds would cover needed concrete and steel work for support of the roof, engineering costs and other related expenses. There is a pending DCED grant application for those funds at the state level.

The committee and the council has been aware of the growing problem with the roof for several years. Before the collapse, they had made some unsuccessful efforts to obtain funding. Meanwhile, the water was seeping into the old ceiling, above a suspended ceiling in the former auditorium that had been converted into the day care classrooms.

Eventually the ceiling weakened and came crashing down through the suspended ceiling and into the midst of the children. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but the spectacular crash certainly caught official attention.


Community Day a success

Large turnout on hand for Coaldale's 175th anniversary prelude


Coaldale's 175th birthday is two years away, but the party has already begun.

Coaldale Community Day was held yesterday to kick-off the anniversary celebration, and drew an estimated 2,000 people, most of them current or former Coaldale residents, to the Joseph "Chappy" Sharpy-Tom Raymer Memorial Field next to the Complex building.

Those who came enjoyed food and free entertainment from noon to 5 p.m., and many wore the Coaldale colors of orange and black, and clothing adorned with its mascot tiger. Attendance was so much greater than expected that some of the food stands sold out by 1 o'clock.

"It is just a great, warm feeling to have the community come together, and seeing everybody smiling and talking," said Joe Hnat, co-chairman of the Coaldale Anniversary Committee that staged the event.

"What a way to kick things off," he said, referring to the celebration that will run through the town's 175th anniversary in 2002.

"Thank You for our town of Coaldale, and thank You for our cultural heritage that we all enjoy," said Jay Hoffman during the invocation. Hoffman said that although the town has a lot of ethnic diversity, "we all are one."

Hnat said his committee was only planning to hold a community day next year if yesterday's event was successful. The turnout was so great that a 2001 Coaldale Community Day is now likely.

A number of those on hand had come back to town for Saturday's Coaldale High School Alumni Reunion at Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall, and stuck around to see more old friends on Sunday.

Orange and black bows were hung on homes throughout the town for weeks.

Yesterday's festival took one year of planning, and began with the singing of the Coaldale Alma Mater and fight song by the Alumni Chorus. Memorabilia from Coaldale's past was on display at several stands.

Food ranging from halupki to barbequed chicken to homemade cakes was sold by numerous community groups and was popular with those in attendance. Face painting and a dunk tank were among the activities for children.

Entertainment was provided by the Third Brigade Band of Pottsville, Coaldale native Jay Smarr, Marianne Ritzko Cutler's School of dance, Barbershop Chorus, Rainbow End Players, and DJ's Thad Hager and Nick Ritzko.

It was announced that the winner of the contest for designing the Coaldale 175th Anniversary logo was Ann O'Connell of Coaldale.

Among the groups that had stands or displays were: Coaldale Volunteer Fire Company, Coaldale CHOSE Recreation Organization, Coaldale Republican Club, Coaldale Complex Commission, Lions Club of Coaldale, Coaldale Ambulance Association, Coaldale American Legion, Coaldale VFW, Boy Scout Troop and Pack 762, Miners Memorial Hospital, Panther Valley Women's Club, Coaldale Cruisers, Lansford AMVETS, St. Mary Russian Church, First Congregational United Church of Christ, SS Cyril and Methodius Church, United Methodist Church, St. John Lithuanian Church, St. Mary of the Assumption Church, and the Piranha Swim Team.