DONORA – Kenric Manor, a former personal care home, has been approved for accommodation for international students.
A motion to approve a conditional use request was passed by 4-3 on Thursday at the Donora Borough Council meeting.
Chairman of the Board Michael McDowell and fellow Board members Donald Greco, Cindy Brice and Edward “Sonny” Lawson voted in favor of the motion. Council members P. Jane Ackerman, Edward Parquette and Donald Pavelko voted against the motion.
Future iService LLC., Which is based in New York City, purchased the facility located at 116 Kenric Ave. to a subsidiary of Mon Valley Hospital at a private auction in August.
Mathein Jiang, owner of Future iService, attended Thursday’s meeting. He said the company has similar facilities in Wisconsin and New York.
“He has a long career in international education here in the United States,” said attorney Victor Kustra, who represented Jiang on Thursday. “He is very passionate about international studies and allows international students to have the opportunity to come and learn here, especially in rural areas. He thinks it’s a central part of the true international experience here in the United States.
Jiang said he hopes to make deals with local colleges such as Penn State Fayette and Westmoreland County Community College to keep international students attending these institutions at the institution, but he is not currently aligned with any local colleges. .
The plan is to accommodate 10 to 15 students there by September 2022, with that number rising to 40 by September 2023. If there aren’t 10 to 15 students by September, Jiang said his business would wait another year to open the dormitory. Most of the students would be first or second year students, mostly from Europe and Asia.
Jiang said he had no other plans for the building and that he was confident his company would be able to recruit students for the field.
Council members asked Jiang a number of questions, including one from Greco about what the plans are to keep the students from being loud.
“We will have a 24-hour dorm supervisor to live with them,” Jiang said. “In addition, we will have two residential assistants to live with the dorm supervisor. “
Jiang said the students would return to the dormitory around 6-6:30 p.m. and stay there for the evening.
“They wouldn’t go out at night,” he said. “After they get back to the dormitory, they will have dinner and study there and go to bed around 10 or 11.”
Jiang said any student who broke the rules established under their living conditions would be fired.
“Any student who engages in criminal activities will be immediately returned to their home country,” Jiang said.
Pavelko asked why Jiang did not appear before the council or the planning commission before his last meeting.
Jiang said he was informed that he was not required to attend these previous meetings.
Pavelko cited this as his reason for voting against the motion.
“If you had come earlier and explained it to the planning commission a little better than it was explained,” he said. “But at the moment, I don’t know. “
Greco said he had had favorable experiences hosting foreign students in the past.
“They are here to study and learn, I am in favor of it,” he said.
The proposal was the subject of several meetings with the borough’s planning commission.
The planning committee ultimately voted a tie, a fifth member was not present at this meeting, and the proposal was submitted to council for approval.
The citizens had expressed their concerns during these meetings of the planning commission concerning the parking in the region.
Jiang said Thursday that international students will not drive to schools.
“It’s difficult for international students to get a driver’s license in the United States,” Jiang said. “In our agreement with students and parents, we do not allow any of our students to own a car, rent a car, or drive a car while living in our dorm.”
He added that a van will be provided to take students to and from the college they are attending. As the number of students increases, this could be turned into a bus to transport students.
“We would only need the parking lot for the dorm supervisor and residential assistants,” Jiang said.
As for the food, Jiang said meals will be ordered for students at local restaurants but they will eat there.
The building has been vacant since 2018 when it was closed due to various health code violations.
In August 2018, the personal care home, then known as Miller’s Corner Cottage, was evacuated after it emerged the owner had abandoned the business. Only 13 residents remained at the house at the time, up from 66 six months earlier. Additionally, facility employees reported that their paychecks had rebounded.
This was a month after the home was told by the State Department of Social Services that it needed to correct 55 violations that had been found during an inspection earlier that year.