This is the first of two parts and covers key events from 2015 in Cranberry Township. The second part, which will appear in Sunday's newspaper, will look back at events in neighboring municipalities.
CRANBERRY TWP — The township had new developments, community upgrades and community projects that made a difference this year. Here is a look back at some of the top township stories of 2015.
New DJ office opens
In mid-January, District Judge David Kovach's new district court office at 9028 Marshall Road opened. It is the first building built in Cranberry specifically for a court. The $700,000 facility is much larger than the former court office on Executive Drive.
The county owns the new facility, which includes a 30-seat courtroom, administrative offices, a kitchen and rooms for attorneys and their clients.
New police chief
At the beginning of February, Kevin Meyer was made the new chief of the township police department, a position that had not been in existence for 15 years.
Meyer has been with the department since 1996.
In March, the township approved spending nearly $1.7 million to upgrade the North Boundary Waterpark. The work included a new climbing wall, dump bucket, new pool surface, a larger and separate baby pool and more.
The upgrades will be completed when the water park opens on May 28.
The Cranberry Township Community Chest raised nearly $393,000 to help recruit and retain more volunteer firefighters in Butler County.
That project was the group's 2015 project of the year.
At least $150,000 of that money went to buy two emergency trailers that will be used for recruitment, training and educational purposes by all of the fire departments in the county.
The rest of the money went to establish scholarships at Butler County Community College. Any student who volunteers for two years of service at a fire department will be eligible for a scholarship.
The group also announced the Miracle League ballfield at Dick's Sporting Goods Sportsplex in Graham Park would be the focus of its 2016 project.
The field is with the Miracle League of Southwestern Pennsylvania, which provides developmentally disabled children the chance to play baseball.
It will include a new, fully-accessible playground around the outfield of the Miracle League baseball field in Graham Park.
Sewage plant project
In July, the township supervisors approved a $32 million bond for improvements to the Brush Creek Water Pollution Control Facility.
The township's cost for the project will be about $41 million. Marshall Township is contributing about $7 million to the project since it uses the same sewage plant.
The total cost of the project is about $48 million.
The supervisors also increased the sewer rates from $7.16 to $7.98 per thousand gallons of water, which took effect Oct. 20. This will cost the average ratepayer $4.10 more a month.
The township was working on three walkways to create connections to the core of the township and to Graham Park.
One project is taking place along Powell Road at the western entrance to The Crossings residential area, and the second is on Commonwealth Drive at Pennwood Place in the Thorn Hill Industrial Park.
The third project also is in Thorn Hill Park to finish a trail that will connect Commonwealth Drive with Marshall Township.
Twister hits Cranberry
A tornado struck Cranberry Township on June 28.
The EF-0 level twister touched ground in the area of Chaparral Drive at 5:06 p.m. and continued north toward North Boundary Park Drive. It had a maximum width of 300 yards and traveled for about 1.5 miles at speeds of between 60 and 70 mph.
A resident's roof was damaged and more than a dozen trees were downed.
St. Kilian's new church
St. Kilian Parish broke ground in July on the home for its new church in Cranberry Township.
The new church will have more seating, taking up 30,000 square feet and seating about 1,200 people.
The $11 million project also will have a basement hall with 350 seats and a full-size commercial kitchen. Meeting rooms, a bell tower, offices and other amenities will be built.
The church is expected to be completed by the parish's centennial year in 2017.
Hundreds of residents gathered at Community Park this summer for the 16th annual Cranberry CUP to rally around the 2015 Inspirational Family and other families who have been helped by the organization.
The lives of this year's beneficiaries, Stephen and Selby Popson and their three children, were changed overnight when Stephen Popson discovered he suffered from congestive heart failure.
The Cranberry CUP bought the family a double-wide mobile home to give them more room so Shelby Popson can open a day care there and be able to stay with her husband. The organization also bought a medical alert system for Stephen Popson.
Hockey complex opens
The $70 million UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex that combines the Pittsburgh Penguins and UPMC brands opened Aug. 17.
The two-story, 185,000-square-foot building with two rinks is open for public skating, figure skating and amateur hockey. It also features a 1,500-square-foot hockey skills training space and a sports performance space.
The sports medicine center has 24 exam rooms and six teams of physicians who are experts in sports related injuries to care for athletes from any sport and any level.