By Vicki Rock Daily American
The future USS Somerset will not only carry the name of this county, it will also carry names from boroughs and townships in Somerset County and wood from along Route 219.
“Somerset County Commissioner John Vatavuk said when he was at the USS Somerset christening, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Cole Hayes, the ship’s commander, said he would like local road signs made and sent to the ship. They will be used to identify various hallways and rooms throughout the ship.
The commander wants the atmosphere so that sailors on the ship will think they are in Somerset County,” Vatavuk said. “This is pretty cool.”
Vatavuk wrote to all the municipalities and townships asking each to purchase one road sign. The county will order the signs through U.S. Municipal Supply to get a volume discount. The cost is $30.25 each. Each municipality and township may choose their own name or that of a popular roadway. Indian Lake has chosen Indian Lake Drive. Garrett picked the Garrett Shortcut. Windber picked both Windber and Ramblers Road.
“If they can’t afford to pay the $30.25, I will pay out of my own pocket,” Vatavuk said. “The ship should be like visiting here in Somerset County.”
He needs the municipalities and townships to notify him of their choices by Jan. 31.
In addition to the road signs, the Navy has gotten special permission to use wood in the ship. It generally isn’t used because of fire danger.
The maple will be obtained from the stand of trees that needs to be timbered for construction of Route 219 between Somerset and Meyersdale.It is to be used for 4-foot-high paneling in the ship’s mess hall. Route 219 was chosen because it is the Flight 93 Memorial Highway.
“We are still waiting to hear from the Navy as to how much maple is needed,” Vatavuk said. “There is a stand on the state gamelands that has good timber.”
Henry Cook, a member of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, said few counties have ships named for them. It is, of course, because of the heroes of Flight 93, he said, but there is also a direct connection between Somerset County and the USS Somerset.