The Daily Courier: Armstrong’s Fabian to lead Southwestern Commission

Armstrong County officials were optimistic last week that having one of their own as the chairman for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission can only be a good thing for the county over the next two years.

During their meeting on March 7, Armstrong County Commissioners John Strate, Anthony Shea and Pat Fabian announced that Fabian was recently elected as chairman of the regional planning organization.

Fabian, who has served as the vice chairman of SPC for the past two years, said that the commission oversees how federal and state transportation dollars are spent in the region, which includes 10 counties and the City of Pittsburgh.

Strate said having someone on the SPC board from Armstrong County is a very good thing.

In a press release from the SPC, it was announced that in addition to Fabian serving as chairman, Fayette County Commissioner Vince Vicites will serve as vice chairman, and Greene County Commissioner Betsy McClure will serve as secretary/treasurer.

“The board’s new officers will shape the commission’s work for the next several years and intend to focus on workforce and economic development, transportation planning, and other initiatives like investments in broadband, water resources, attracting business investments, and expanding pedestrian and bicycle trails throughout the region,” the press release states.

“Together, Commissioners Fabian, Vicites and McClure make a dynamic team, and we are fortunate to have their leadership,” said Rich Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. “Our organization functions as a consensus builder and we work in a collaborative manner in order to support the needs of the entire region. We bring entities from the public and private sectors together to discuss wide-ranging issues that impact our 10 counties. By having Armstrong, Fayette and Greene counties at the helm of our board, I know that the commissioners will elevate the priorities of all of our urban, suburban and rural communities.”

During his time as commissioner since 2016, Fabian has increased the county’s operating reserve fund from $600,000 to $8 million and led efforts to significantly change the county’s pension funds from $60 million to $85 million. Additionally, he has worked to reduce the county’s debt by 20 percent since he was first elected.

Prior to serving as county commissioner, Fabian was a supervisor in Manor Township. Before entering public service, he spent more than 15 years as an outpatient and family therapist at the Family Counseling Center of Armstrong County where he was responsible for providing counseling to patients and creating individualized treatment plans. He has his bachelor’s degree in special education from Gannon University and a master’s degree in community counseling from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“I cannot wait to hit the ground running and serve the board in this leadership role,” Fabian said. “The entire region is well-positioned to work collectively as a team with one voice on major issues like job creation and broadband connectivity. While our approach to challenges may, at times, be different, we all have one goal — and that is to improve the overall quality of life for Southwestern Pennsylvania’s residents. We are able to advocate better for them when we all work together.”

SPC employs 50 individuals that work on behalf of the 10-county region in Southwestern Pennsylvania. As the federally designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO), local development district (LDD), and economic development district (EDA), the organization works to keep the region connected and moving forward. As part of this work, SPC helps counties, cities, municipalities and townships access approximately $39 billion in state and federal transportation and economic development funding that has been allocated to the region through 2045.

In other business at last week’s meeting of the Armstrong County Commissioners, county elections director James Webb gave an update about the rapidly approaching April 23 general election.

He said that April 8 is the last day to register to vote before the primary, and April 18 is the final day to request a mail-in ballot.

Webb said that testing of voting machines will begin soon, and that the county still needs poll workers in various precincts.

In related business, the commissioners approved an agreement between the county and Gabriel Fera PC, a firm representing multiple counties in a lawsuit regarding mail-in ballots.

Responding to a comment from a member of the public who said that “mail-in ballots are a farce” and that she did not want to see her tax dollars used to defend such a lawsuit, Strate stood behind Webb and the county elections department.

“Mail-in ballots are what we do now,” Strate acknowledged, noting that he had confidence in Webb to oversee the election.

Fabian acknowledged that the agreement with Gabriel Fera was only for a retainer, and that the county may not need those legal services as the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is defending all counties in the case.

Other Business

  • Approval was given for a cooperative agreement between the county and the City of Parker for administration of the city’s 2023 Community Development Block Grant funding. The city will receive $300,805 for its North Wayne Street reconstruction project. The county will retain 15 percent ($45,120) for administrative purposes.
  • The commissioners approved listing four non-used vehicles from the Sheriff’s Department for sale on Municibid.
  • Karen Travis of Apollo and Pam Lash of Freeport were appointed to the county’s Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board for three-year terms.

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