February 25, 2020

Getting Started

The meeting began with an invocation by Betsy West, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. 
Brad Montgomery reported that there were 33 members in attendance, and one guest, our speaker Mayor Scott Putnam


  • Kathy Sabol reminded us that the Trivia Contest is only 10 days away. So far there are 24 teams signed up (last year we had 42). She is not sure why so many are procrastinating, but is hopeful there will be many last-minute registrations. Deadline is Monday, March 2. Due to the absence of Tom Drewitz, Mike Pecosh has agreed to MC the event.
  • Brandi said that she was still collecting items for baskets.
  • Susan Price shared that she had just gotten some gift cards for the raffle from PDG Cherie Sears, who had stopped in for a minute but could not stay for the meeting.
  • Dorothy Tecklenburg reminded members that she had raffle tickets for the Bondo project. If anyone had not picked theirs up, they should see her. Please return stubs and payments in the envelope you get them in. This helps keep track of what is still out.
  • Susan Price spoke about the upcoming Rotary Foundation Luncheon. It will take place at The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh on Sunday, March 29. Registration and Social Hour from noon to 1pm. Buffett Luncheon at 1, Dessert Auction at 1:30, Program at 2pm and Basket Auction at 2:30. Cost is $80 per person, $60 if registration is paid by March 16. The club is donating a basket for the auction and receiving in return a Paul Harris fellowship to be awarded to a person of the club’s choice. She and Bill cannot attend, but she hopes the club will be well-represented.

Happy Dollars:

  • President Andy began by giving a confession dollar. His cell phone AND watch went off during announcements. He was happy to have Mayor Putnam as our speaker this week.
  • John Hopper was happy to be wearing his hair hat, due to the weather, and also paid a dollar to make the comment that Susan Price seemed to have turned an announcement into a major address.
  • Kathy Sabol was happy for the successful Winter Bench and Bar meeting. She said she put 19,000 steps onto her Fitbit on Saturday. It was an exhausting day for her and her staff, so she was $3 happy for the Paradise chocolates which Brandi Miller brought for them. Her final dollar of five was for the upcoming Law Day. She had information on the upcoming Law Day event on April 30 at the Courthouse. This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19thamendment to the constitution, which gave women the right to vote. There are several contests, including one for adults: A Law Peeps Diorama. Create a box diorama using peeps and email an unaltered photo of it to her at It needs a title and a brief (140-word max) statement of the entry’s relevance to the theme. The winning entry, which can be submitted by a group, wins $200 to the winner’s charity of choice.
  • Dave Hart was happy that after sharing First United Methodist’s youth group soup project, several Rotarians gave him donations, and as a result, 200 more cans of soup will go to the project.
  • John Quayle has happy for Fat Tuesday, which he modestly claimed was named in his honor, and also happy to let Rotarians know that they have the chance to be served by him and Bill Mesler every Friday at lunch time at the IC Fish Fry.
  • Ken Baker was happy to promote this week’s Jazz Bruch guest performer, keyboardist Joe DeFazio, and to let us know that his son Dan Baker is planning a program for the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. He shared that last Sunday there were 71 people at the Jazz Brunch.
  • Angeline East has happy to have received a large box from Zonta which contained 300 hospital gowns for Bondo.
  • Brian Gorman was happy to have gotten another speaking gig after the write-up of his talk last week. The McMurray Rotary club has asked him to speak. He was also reminded by someone (this writer forgot to get the name) that he had failed to mention that his brother Kevin Gorman is a sportswriter for the Tribune-Review. He was also happy for the excellent Winter Bench and Bar program last Saturday.
  • Lars Lange was happy to share that Seven Springs is again hosting veterans and their families for the Wounded Warriors Patrol. The veteran and family receive a free week including all slope fees. If anyone knows a member of the military who suffered any injury while on active duty, please let Lars know so that they can be aware of this wonderful service. He was also happy to share an anecdote about Judge Emery. Apparently when her husband thought she had been speaking too long he would say to her: “Land the plane, land the plane.” He seemed to be directing this towards Susan Price.
  • Brandi Miller was happy to be able to thank the club for its continuing sponsorship of the Literacy Council’s Baby Book Bag Program, and to invite people to get their fish from HER at the EVENING IC Fish Fry every Friday.
  • Susan Price was happy to reintroduce Gretchen Stein, who is now back at the Racetrack Road Doubletree and back with the club.
  • Mary Jo Podgurski was happy for the upcoming Washington’s Got Talent contest. Open auditions will be held on Saturday, March 29, 12 to 1:30 and Sunday, March 1, 3 to 4:30 at First Presbyterian Church on East Wheeling Street. Any young person with any kind of talent is welcome to audition. Auditions are open to individuals or groups in 7th to 12thgrades.
  • Bill Price was happy to announce that in April of 2021 we will be celebrating the 60th year in our club of Mr. John Northrop. He is looking for people with information about John and his club activities over the years, as well as general information which can be shared in a special program. He also said that people could see why he is so quiet.
  • Dorothy Tecklenburg was happy to learn about the Zonta donation, since she had been trying to source gowns without dealing with China right now. She also was happy to have finished the questions for the Trivia Contest and was happy to give us the answers: There are some As, a few Bs, several Cs, and at least two Ds.
  • Jim Uram was happy to have attended a great fundraiser which has been held for many years by the Latrobe Rotary Club. There were 300 attendees and the club raised $70,000. When asked, he said it is a reverse raffle, and the tickets are $125. He bought two. (Later he confessed that brother Thomas Uram bought them for him.)
  • Susan Priest was happy for her church’s Shrove Tuesday Pancake supper this evening, also for Brian Gorman, who saved her bacon last week. She does think she deserves an agent’s fee if he starts a speaking career. She is also happy that after doing damage to her good knee last week, it has bounced back to normal.

Program:Mayor Scott Putnam

Joe Manning had invited Mayor Scott Putnam to speak to the club, and then abandoned us for Texas. He dumped the duties of introducing the Mayor on Susan Price: who was greeted by calls of “land the plane”, which she did by giving a brief introduction to someone she was sure we all knew: Mayor Scott Putnam.
Mayor Putnam began by saying he was so thankful for our club for the adoption of the renovation of the Main Pavilion in Washington Park. He credited the work begun under Rich Podgurski, the raising of $100,000 to celebrate the club’s 100th anniversary, as the spark with led to over $700,000 in funds to bring about the needed work on the pavilion. He praised the contributions of the whole club to the effort. 
He began his second term as mayor this January. He has lived here for 20 years, having married a native. His two daughters have grown up here. The older is a junior at WVU, majoring in Communications and Religious Studies. His younger daughter is a student at Bishop Caniven High School. His goal is to reverse the trend of people having to leave town in order to see children and grandchildren. To have them “live in” Washington, not “be from” Washington. To use the talent already here to build community-based initiatives.
Revitalization is a key. He shared that four years ago there were 42 properties on the demolition list and 47 on the rehabilitation list. These numbers are down to 8 in both cases. Renovation activity is up 70%, for which he especially credits the Dreamers Organization. The city is doing property assessment surveys to target potential issues to address before the situation leads to a doomed property. The old saying “a stitch in time saves nine” is true for keeping properties livable. He particularly urges the concept of “neighbors helping neighbors”. For example: there 43 churches within the borders of Washington, and if each congregation looked around the blocks surrounding them, they could see opportunities to help elderly neighbors: picking up trash, trimming bushes, mowing yards. He cited the work of Fern Sibert, recently chronicled in the Observer-Reporter’s series on 29 Days of Love. The city will be sponsoring a city-wide cleanup day sometime in April, date not yet set.
The removal of derelict structures has left the city with many vacant lots which are too small to build on. The city will be working on ways to use these lots. Some will be offered as side yards for existing properties. Some have the potential to be bundled into larger properties which can be built on. Ownership of the vacant lots is the issue, and will need to be addressed.
The city has seen a great loss of population over the years. In the 1970’s the population was over 20,000. In 2010, at the most recent census, the population was 13,600. Also, by 2010, 51% of the population met the low or moderate income guidelines, and 57% were renting, not owning, their homes. The city wants to educate city dwellers on the value of ownership over renting. They want to be aware, however, that there will need to be provision for safety net programs to help home-owners who unexpectedly have to replace a system which will break their budgets. When there is no budget for a new water-heater, a home-owner can enter a debt spiral.
A good feature for low-income home owners in Washington is that the city actually has a good walkability score. In most cases, essential services are within walking distance, or available through public transportation. It is possible to live easily in the city of Washington without having to rely on a car.
The mayor is also a promoter of “memory-driven events.” Those things which occur regularly over the years and tie the community to the people and the people to the community. High on these “memory-driven events” are the holiday market and the Christmas Parade. 
He wants the city to be involved in playground enhancements. Young people need places to play in order to build ties to the wider community. Events like the Farmer’s Market which recur every year are important in this sense of the continuity of life here in Washington. He is pleased with the growth of the market, which now has quite a waiting list. Another series he celebrates is the First Fridays events started by the Northrops and the Observer-Reporter.
While he values the work on increasing tourism, he has the motto: Community First, Tourism Second. If WE don’t hang out here, why should they?
He celebrated the fact that in the last 4 years 16 new businesses have started in the downtown area. 12 are still in operation. The city is involved in providing programs to help these new business owners develop skills as entrepreneurs. He is especially pleased to see the new businesses cross-pollinate. At the distilleries, you will find charcuterie trays from Emerald Valley, for example. They don’t try to be a business in isolation, but part of an interwoven group who specialize in what they do best and recognize excellence in their fellow business-owners.
What is coming next? The city is going to pursue a storm-water impact fee. We are operating with a 75-year-old storm water system. The only reason we aren’t in worse shape is that the system was the product of a generation of true craftsmen. However, nothing lasts forever.
The city also is involved in working for regionalization of community services. As an example: Fire services. The city has a fire department with 21 full-time professional fire fighters. Surrounding municipalities have volunteer departments with only a few paid fire fighters. This means that often Washington Fire Department is the first responder to fires in surrounding communities. The city is working with state agencies to develop a regionalization plan for fire protection.
Mayor Putnam said he would answer the 2 biggest   questions before anyone asked him. First, he would be happy to remove all the parking meters if someone could find the $400,000 to fill the hole in the budget which that would create. Second: don’t bug the city about potholes in Jefferson, Murtland, Maiden, Chestnut, or Main Streets. Those potholes are the property of the State of Pennsylvania.
He also added the warning that the state will be working on major improvements on Jefferson Avenue. Be prepared for major delays and headaches for a while. Gone are the days of the Jefferson Avenue which was a quiet street. Traffic studies show that 20,000 vehicles travel Jefferson every day in the city, and 9% are heavy trucks.  Work on the street is overdue and necessary, which will not prevent it from being a major hassle.
Finally: Mayor Putnam said that the city suffered an unexpected loss this year. Ron McIntyre, code enforcement officer for the city, died unexpectedly, leaving a wife and children. Ron was a city police officer until he was severely injured during the 2006 Washington Hotel fire, falling 5 stories. His loss has hit his family hard, and the city is sponsoring a Pancake Breakfast at the American Legion on this Saturday, February 29. Hours are 9 to noon, and the cost is $10. He hopes we will consider this worthy cause.


  • Joe Piszczor asked for his views of the expansion of tax-exempt property in the city as Washington and Jefferson and Washington Hospital, among others, continue to grow.
    • Forty-five percent of the property in the city is tax-exempt. The city works with the entities. In the case of Washington Hospital, they make a payment in lieu of taxes, and when they purchase houses to be used by their residents, they continue to pay taxes on the properties. Washington and Jefferson has donated several items to the city: for example providing Kevlar vests for the police. In addition, the new storm-water fee is NOT a tax. All property owners in the city will be paying the fee.
  • Bill West asked if the mayor was familiar with a recent Wheeling innovation: home owners who improve their properties receive a rebate on property taxes, rather than an increase.
    • The mayor was not familiar with this, but pointed out that Washington has an unusual tax structure. There are two tax rates, one on the land, one on the structure. 70% of property tax revenues come from the assessment on the land, so the increase in assessment for improvements to structure is not as great.
Winner: Bill West
Non-Winner: Mike Pecosh
Mike led us in the 4-Way Test
Washington Rotary
We meet Tuesdays at 12:00 PM
W & J College, The Commons
60 S. Lincoln St.
Washington, PA  15301
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