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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Potential Closure of SCI Pittsburgh

Last week the Wolf Administration announced that the Department of Corrections plans to close two state correctional institutes this year.  Citing the need for cost savings in light of the current state budget deficit, the administration has identified five facilities statewide to be considered for closure. SCI Pittsburgh in Woods Run is among those state prisons under consideration.  The other four being considered are SCI Mercer in Mercer County, SCI Retreat in Luzerne County, SCI Frackville in Schuylkill County, and SCI Waymart in Wayne County. 

SCIThe department plans on announcing its final decision on which facilities will close on Jan. 26 with the goal of having the two selected facilities closed by June 30.

While I understand the cost to operating the facilities and providing the programs and services within, the consequence of such a potential closure reaches far beyond simply closing the doors and turning out the lights.  A decision like this changes more than numbers on a spreadsheet, it impacts peoples’ lives and it should be thoughtfully and carefully deliberated.

For many families in our region, SCI Pittsburgh provides the jobs that sustain them and provides a means to self-sufficiency at a time when our unemployment rate remains one of the highest in the nation.  More than 550 staff work at SCI Pittsburgh which houses more than 1,900 inmates.  SCI Pittsburgh’s close proximity to world renowned hospitals is also beneficial as it reduces costs to the state.  The facility also provides specialized mental health treatment, transitional housing units, and services for veterans.

In light of the ongoing heroin and opioid abuse crisis we face, it is important to note that in addition to the aforementioned, SCI Pittsburgh plays a critical role in this community by providing unique, specialized services to inmates who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction.  At a time when the worsening heroin and opioid epidemic is destroying families and crippling communities across Pennsylvania, it is alarming that we would potentially close the doors to one of the few facilities that provides the treatment and rehabilitative services for those suffering from addiction.

It is important to note that SCI Pittsburgh has seen its doors closed before, only to re-open less than two years later when inmate population was over capacity.  The decision was made to close the facility in 2005 and its doors were closed what was thought then for the last time on Jan. 13, 2005.  Unexpectedly, in less than two years there was a need to re-open the facility and after $32 million worth of renovations, SCI Pittsburgh re-opened on June 4, 2007. 

The example of SCI Pittsburgh’s closure in 2005 and costly re-opening two years later illustrates the need to carefully consider this decision without acting hastily.  I am greatly concerned that making a decision only a couple of weeks after publicly announcing the possibility is doing exactly that.  To that end, I am introducing legislation that would prohibit the department from closing a state correctional institution without conducting a public hearing within the municipality in which the facility is located. The legislation would also require the department to provide at least 30 days notice of the public hearing.

In the meantime, this situation warrants a public discussion within our community among workers, families and department officials. I encourage anyone who wishes to weigh in to do so.  Anyone wishing to comment, express concerns, or ask questions can do so by emailing the department at or calling 1-888-316-8950. I will also be co-hosting a hearing with the Senate Democratic Policy Committee on this issue in Pittsburgh next Tuesday, Jan. 17.  Stay tuned to my twitter feed this week, @WayneDFontana, as details on this hearing become available.

Applications for RACP

The Pennsylvania Office of the Budget has opened a new application window for projects under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).  The 30-day window began Jan. 4 and ends on Feb. 3.  There have also been some changes to the application process, including that no initial business plan will be required, rather, applicants will use the DCED Single Application for Assistance process, and an application fee of $500 will be required.

The RACP program is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.  RACP projects are authorized in the Redevelopment Assistance section of a Capital Budget Itemization Act, have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact, and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues, or other measures of economic activity.  RACP projects are state-funded projects that cannot obtain primary funding under other state programs.

For more information on the RACP program please click here or visit and click on the “Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program” tab on the home page.  For specific questions on the application process please click here.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 16 in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Medical Marijuana Update

Applications for medical marijuana growers/processors and dispensaries will be available beginning next Tuesday, Jan. 17 it was recently announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  Permit applications will be accepted from Feb. 20, 2017 – March 20, 2017. 

Med Marijuana Medical Marijuana According to Department of Health Secretary, Dr. Karen Murphy, in Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program’s first phase, there will be up to 12 permits issued for growers/processors across six medical marijuana regions, and up to 27 permits issued for dispensaries.  The decision for which counties will be issued permits in this first phase was determined by using the department’s medical data as well as comments from more than 5,000 panelists and nearly 900 potential growers/processors and dispensary applicants.

Applications will be available on the department’s website at  Also, additional information on Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program is available on the site, by clicking on the “PA Medical Marijuana” hyperlink on the home page or by clicking here.  This page is a one-stop shop for the new law and has special sections specifically for patients and caregivers, physicians, growers/processors, dispensaries, and laboratories.  Specific questions about the Medical Marijuana Program can also be emailed to

Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is now accepting applications from non-profits and local governments for the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program.  Grants support projects that identify, preserve, promote and protect historic and archaeological resources in Pennsylvania for both the benefit of the public and community revitalization.

Two categories of grants – project and construction – are available for historic resources in Pennsylvania listed, or eligible for listing, in the National Register of Historic Places.  Applicants may apply for only one type of grant.

Project grants are available for planning and development initiatives that enhance historic preservation in communities.  Project grant applications may include municipal planning initiatives focusing on historic resources or may be used to meet building- or project-specific planning goals.  Keystone Historic Preservation Project Grants are available between $5,000 and $25,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

Construction grants are available for rehabilitation, preservation and restoration activities for historic resources that are publicly accessible and under non-profit or local government ownership.  Keystone Historic Preservation Construction Grants are available between $5,000 and $100,000 and require a 50/50 cash match.

A total of $1.5 million has been set aside for this program and the application deadline is March 1.  The PHMC will be hosting two webinars about the program’s guidelines and application process on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 10 a.m.  Anyone interested in registering for one of these webinars can contact Karen Arnold by email at or by phone at 717-783-9927.

Grants will be awarded through a competitive selection process and are contingent on availability of funds.  Applicants are required to use the web-based electronic grant application process.  For more information, including grant program guidelines, please visit the PHMC online at

Unclaimed Property

Unclaimed Property Unclaimed Property The Pennsylvania Treasury Department is once again encouraging all Pennsylvanians to check the department’s unclaimed property website to see if there is property waiting for you to claim.  Annually, the Treasury Department receives millions of dollars unclaimed property, items like:  abandoned bank accounts; forgotten stocks; uncashed checks; and contents of safety deposit boxes.  The property remains available for claim by the owners or their heirs in perpetuity and the department serves as the custodian until it can find and verify its rightful owner.

You can search for unclaimed property by clicking here or visiting  If your name appears in the database you can request a claim form online, complete the form, print it and send it to the department.  My district offices can assist you in completing and sending the claim forms.

Did You Know…

Did you know the Treasury Department reunited thousands of Pennsylvanians with a record $175 million in property and money in 2016?

Christmas Tree Recycling Program

Christmas Tree REcyclingThis Monday is the last day to participate in the Allegheny County Christmas Tree Recycling Program.  Residents of Allegheny County can drop off their Christmas trees at all nine regional parks during regular hours of operation, dawn to dusk.

All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to dropping them off.  The trees will be mulched and used in county parks.  The following are the drop-off locations:

Boyce Park
Deer Lakes Park
Harrison Hills Park
Hartwood Acres Park 
North Park  
Round Hill Park  
Settlers Cabin Park   
South Park   
White Oak Park  
parking lot by the wave pool
parking lot by the Veterans 2 Shelter
parking lot at the intersection of Chipmunk & Cottontail Drive
parking lot at the mansion
parking lot at the swimming pool
parking lot past spray park, between Meadow & Alfalfa Shelters
parking lot by the wave pool
parking lot at the wave pool
parking lot by the Poplar 1 Shelter

Dormont Library Workshops

Dormont Library has launched two programs this month.  The first is a Resume and Cover Letter Workshop presented by Keith Gillogly and Brittany Page.  This workshop is scheduled for Saturdays at noon.  Keith and Brittany will work one-on-one with individuals to show them how to develop and design a sharp, competitive resume or cover letter.  Those with resumes and cover letters already established are also welcome to work with instructors in order to review and correct any underlying issue they may have.  Registration is required for this program. There is a limit to two students per class.  Make sure to bring a flash drive and any written work when attending.Dormont Library Dormont Public Library

The library is also presenting a Writers’ Salon open to adults 18 and older every Saturday in January and February.  This program is designed to allow guests to share ideas and push their creativity to the limit in a self-guided, fun, and relaxed environment.  Registration is required for this program and there is a limit to 20 people.

To register for these two programs or for more information, please contact the library at or 412-531-8754.

Fontana Fact

According to the National Mentoring Partnership there are nine million children in the United States growing up without a mentor to offer real life guidance.  For young people who have a mentor, 52% are less likely than their peers to skip a day of school, 78% are more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and 46% are less likely than their peers to start using drugs.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By Appointment
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library | Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
By Appointment