Ballots sent out to some Westmoreland voters after delay spurred by issues with contractor

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After years of waiting, Larry Franklin was finally ready to cast his first vote for a United States president.

All that was stopping him from doing so was his ballot, which he had expected to receive this week in the mail. On Friday, it had yet to arrive.

Franklin, 67, of Monessen, along with dozens of others, came to the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg to cast his vote in person rather than rely on the mail to deliver ballots. Franklin said he wanted to ensure his vote would count ahead of a trip next week to Africa, where he’ll spend the next several months visiting his daughter.

“I don’t know why we don’t have ballots already,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s ballot and nearly 60,000 others were to have been mailed last week. The first batch of ballots was finally sent out to 8,000 voters Friday morning after a weeklong delay, county officials said.

Westmoreland officials blamed the delay on the Ohio-based private company hired to send out mail-in ballots.

“The county’s contracted mailing company, Midwest Direct, has experienced delays due to both increased volume and mechanical issues,” county officials said in a statement.

Officials at Midwest Direct Presort Mailing in Cleveland did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

Because of the delay, Franklin may have to get on the plane next week without voting. County elections officials refused to allow him to vote at the courthouse Friday because his requested ballot was now in the mail.

“Most of my life I was denied to vote, so this is a big deal,” Franklin said. “There’s nothing I can do now. My flight is leaving for Ghana on Oct. 15

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Anna Reynolds School renovation on the ballot for Newington voters

A $33.5 million renovation project for Anna Reynolds School will be decided by Newington voters when they go to the polls or send in their absentee ballots this election season.

The referendum question asks whether to approve $33.5 million in bonding for a renovate-to-new building project at the elementary school.

Local taxpayers would be responsible for up to $17.5 million of the cost of the project. School building grants from the state would cover the remaining cost. The town council voted unanimously to have the question added to the ballot.

If approved by voters, construction would begin in the summer of 2021 and be completed by December 2022. Students would attend the school during construction.

District officials and parents have been seeking upgrades to the school for several years as its condition has continued to deteriorate.

Built in 1954 and originally known as Northwest Elementary School, the 65,000-square-foot building suffers from a chronically leaking roof that has led some students to joke about the school’s “waterfall feature.”

Before the roof was recently repaired again, Principal Jason Smith said that 11 of the school’s 20 classrooms were experiencing leaks, which are expected to return without a new roof.

Teachers and parents have also complained about a foul odor that is emitted in the building during times of dampness and humidity and the harm it could do to those with allergies or breathing issues.

The building is also not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement, has outdated plumbing, electrical and heating ventilation and air conditioning, officials say. The only air-conditioning the school has is window units around the building and open windows. Temperature control also fluctuates greatly from classroom to classroom.

Other issues include a main entrance that does not align with modern security precautions for people coming into

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