The newly reconstituted Tarentum Recreation Board met tonight at 6:00 PM to receive information and make some preliminary decisions about the design of the skateboard park. Three representatives of the local skaters were present to report on the planning process they had gone through on Sunday.
Carl Magnetta, chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, called on Dan Schmidt of Gibson Thomas, the Borough's engineers, to report on the parameters within which the design would need to be done. His starting point was that the Community Development Block Grant on which the Borough was counting had been reduced. Because the block grant was to be matched by a 15% share from the Borough, his starting assumption was that the borough's share of the project would be reduced accordingly, in spite of the fact that the Borough had budgeted over $30,000 for the project. Based on his calculations the skate park needed to be done within $120,000.
Mr. Schmidt said that he anticipated two contracts: the first being one for excavation of the site, laying the surface, and fencing the park; the second being the equipment itself. Mr. Schmidt explained that the equipment manufacturers were reluctant to give out per piece prices for the items of equipment, but wanted to bid on collections of equipment to be installed.
Mr. Magnetta said that he felt the borough should put down the full pad in the first phase of the project, and leave space for additional pieces of equipment as funding becomes available. He indicated that he was going to pursue grants from the Scaife Foundation and the foundations of local industries in order to get the needed equipment for the skatepark.
There was a question about whether the Borough was pursuing a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. I was somewhat confused at this point because some were claiming that the Borough had to pay that foundation in order to get a grant from it. My own review of the application materials did not show the necessity of paying anything to the Tony Hawk Foundation in order to get a grant.
Reff Revilla of the Skate Park of Natrona reported on the design process the local skaters had engaged in over the previous week. The representatives of the skaters presented a list of obstacles (i.e., equipment) rated in order of popularity, and described the process by which the skaters had been polled. The representatives also made it clear that they felt the full pad should be put in first and that the obstacles should be added as funding was available.
Plans and specifications for the park will need to go to the Allegheny County Council of Governments by April 17. The borough engineer will develop these to go for the maximum size concrete pad.
Councilwoman Ginger Sopcak raised a question about whether the existing fencing can be used temporarily. Mr. Schmidt explained that there is no mandate for fencing around the park, but that the recommendations are that where there is fencing it should be about six feet high, to prevent impact of the skaters with the top edge of fence.
There are no plans to put lighting into the skateboard park, so skating should be limited to daylight hours.
Ginger Sopcak raised the question of who decides about spending all of the money allocated for this project in the borough's 2006 budget. At first it seemed that the answer was the Recreation Board, but as the question was pursued it became clear that the Council will need to tackle this question. Many of those involved in managing the borough's funds have been assuming that the Borough's part of the project should be the engineering fees plus the required 15% match to the block grant. Ms. Sopcak reminded the group that the borough has already budgeted over $30,000 for the skatepark based on the previous assumption of the size of the block grant.
The Recreation Board finished this part of the meeting at 6:43, at which point Council President Magnetta asked those who were not members of the Recreation Board to leave. This request was made a number of times, so I left because I was a member of the public and not a member of the board. I feel that the requests for the public to leave were unnecessary and inappropriate, especially when the Recreation Board had not gone into executive session. But because the council president stated that the meeting was a closed meeting I left.
The work of the borough, its committees and boards, ought to be transparent to the public. We have a right to know what is being discussed and what is being decided. In the earlier part of the meeting there had been some difficult points when it was not clear who had what status at the meeting. If the seating had been planned for this meeting it would have been possible to set up the room so the members of the new Recreation Board were clearly identified, and those of us who were observers and citizens would have been identified as well. Mixed general seating for all was an invitation for participants to get confused about who had what level of official involvement in the decisions that needed to be made. With separate seating areas the Board could have maintained good order while allowing the public to see and hear what was happening.
The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act should have been a sufficient deterrent to any leader's request that members of the general public leave. If the Board had reason to go into executive session they could have made the decision to do so in public.