MOUNT CARMEL — Ground was officially broken Wednesday afternoon on a new low-income senior housing project for eligible veterans age 62 and older in the borough of Mount Carmel. Several dignitaries were on hand to mark the occasion.

Project background

The 700 square foot project named “Freedom Court” is being developed by the Housing Development Corporation of Northumberland County (HDCNC). It will be located at the intersection of West Seventh and South Poplar streets, and will feature five one-bedroom apartments equipped with a full kitchen, combination dining and living room space, bathroom and bedroom. One of the apartments will also be fully accessible for handicapped tenants who suffer from mobility impairments.

The units will be offered first to veterans, followed by their widows and then to anyone who meets the eligibility requirements. Applicants much have an income at or below 50 percent of the median household income in order to qualify.

An architectural drawing of the finished housing project was presented at the ceremony. It was announced that the project architect is SBA Architects of Sunbury and the project engineer is Brinkash and Associates of Ashland.

Contractor bids are expected to be publicly requested by the end of this year, with construction slated to begin shortly thereafter.

Leaders break ground for freedom

Guest speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included HDCNC and Housing Authority Executive Director Ed Christiano, DCED Secretary Dennis Davin, Pa. Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Director of Policy and Planning Bryce Maretzki, Sen. John Gordner, Rep. Kurt Masser and Mount Carmel Mayor Philip “Bing” Cimino.

Christiano opened the ceremony by speaking about the value of the Freedom Court project and thanking those who helped make it a reality.

“With projects like this, we’re helping our veterans and at the same time cleaning up the local communities of our county,” said Christiano.

“I want to thank everyone for coming out here today and being a part of this groundbreaking ceremony, including DCED Secretary Davin, whom we’re honored to have with us. We appreciate the efforts of everyone involved, and I want to extend our sincerest thanks to the entire team of our community partners and elected officials that have helped bring this project to fruition.”

Following Christiano, Davin, spoke of how projects like Freedom Court have become a reality.

“The main reason projects like this one receive funding and get done is that the community steps forward with one voice and tells us what they want to accomplish and what they need to get it done. This project is the result of the coordination of several partners committed to making Northumberland County a better place to live,” he said.

Davin continued, “None of the brave men and women who have served our country should ever have to struggle to find a home. County-wide blight removal has also raised the quality of life for all local residents.”

Christiano thanked Davin and his staff for attending the ceremony before introducing the next speaker, PHFA Director of Policy and Planning Bryce Maretzki, who added, “What we look for are community-priority projects, partnerships and the ability to leverage funding.”

“There are good things happening in Mount Carmel,” said Gordner. “We owe a lifelong perpetual debt to our veterans. Northumberland County is known throughout the state as a leader in blight cleanup and removal.” He continued, “We want to follow blight removal with worthwhile projects like this.”

Gordner then relayed a story about his uncle Roy, who was a World War II veteran.

“My uncle Roy Gordner’s plane was shot down over France in November of 1944, and he’s buried over there. I remember my dad showing me the Purple Heart medal that my uncle received for making the ultimate sacrifice. A lot of people may not know that my middle name is Roy, but for those of you who’ve watched the Walton’s and John Boy, you know why I don’t use my first and middle names together,” said Gordner jokingly.

Masser talked about those who “get it.”

“What a great day and what a great project,” said Masser. “No veteran should ever have to live in sub-standard conditions. I want to thank the Secretary and everyone else for joining us here today, including Mount Carmel Borough officials. They get it and are committed to getting this done.”

Cimino concluded with the words, “If you want something done you turn to a veteran. I believe this project will make our community that much better.”

Cimino publicly acknowledged and expressed his appreciation toward three local veterans who attended the ceremony, Dave Fantini, Alan Matzura and Dave Berezovske.

The leaders then stepped forward, grabbed their golden shovels and broke ground collectively.

A veteran’s appreciation

“I’m 100 percent behind this project,” said Fantini, a Vietnam War veteran. “I love the name ‘Freedom Court’ because without our veterans, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have today.”

A community-wide effort

Local businessman Dennis Molesevich, owner of Molesevich and Sons Construction, said that he and other local business leaders volunteered their services to help with the project free of charge once they heard it was for the veterans.

“A project like this brings the entire community together. It’s for a good cause and helps our local businesses. We try to buy as much locally as possible,” said Molesevich, who has volunteered the use of heavy equipment and manpower from his company to help clear brush, perform removal of tree stumps and do the initial excavation work prior to the laying of the foundation.

Project cost, funding

A total of $983,500 has been allocated for the Freedom Court project, with a breakdown of funding as follows: $750,000 from the DCED HOME Partnership program; $200,000 from PHFA; and $33,500 received through a Northumberland County Commissioners Community Development Block Grant.

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