Township officials back recreation center proposal

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Elected officials from North Huntingdon, Irwin, North, Norwin School District and AARP have endorsed a township commissioners' plan for a multi-municipality community recreational center.

The initiative moved forward last week when commissioners voted to create an 11-member committee to study the feasibility of the project.

"We need to get moving on this project," said commission Chairman Rich Gray. "The committee is an effort to determine what is needed, and how we can make it reality."

Already committing to join township Commissioners Tom Kerber and Lee Moffatt on the committee are North Irwin council President Gordon Stoves and Mayor Lenny Santimyer; Irwin council President Danyce Neal and Councilwoman Peggie Watson; Norwin school Directors Casey Harper and Jeffery Rutkowski; and AARP representatives Dolores Teaman and John Bales.

"I feel AARP should be represented. They brought the issue to us," said Commissioner Tim Hondal.

The final member will be a person who expressed interest in a letter to the board, said Mr. Gray.

Township recreation program Director Chandra Sheftic will assist the committee along with administrative staff members.

Mrs.Teaman, who is president of the 430-member AARP chapter, said state Rep. James E. Casorio Jr., D- North Huntingdon, state Sen. Bob Regola, R-Hempfield, and U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, have pledged support for a community center.

Although senior citizens would utilize the center for meetings and activities, Mr. Hondal cautioned "we need to develop a mission statement. I'm sure down the line youth and other community organizations would want to hop on board."

Township Manager John Shepherd stressed that the other municipalities and the school district will be directly involved so the project is "not a North Huntingdon-controlled effort."

"I don't want them to pull out because they think we are running this. This is a joint effort. Working together will allow us more funding opportunities from state and federal agencies and legislators," said Mr. Shepherd.

The committee doesn't have a timetable for making its recommendations.

In other business the commissioners failed to approve two different motions to award excess interest earned by the police pension plan. The distribution sought by police was $49,000 to the 28-member force and $15,000 to six retirees.

That motion and another to award the $64,000 to the active officers were made by Commissioner Tom Kerber and ended in a 3-3 tie. Commissioner Don Austin abstained both times because he is a police retiree.

The failure to award the interest could force the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System to place the money in the township pension plan. That could result in a grievance filed by police, who claim their contract entitles them to the money.

Meanwhile, the commissioners approved, with 10 conditions, a WD North Huntingdon Investors plan to subdivide a 9-acre commercial tract along Route 30 into two lots and build a Jiffy Lube on one.

The action ended a nearly two-year effort by the developer to have a plan approved. One of the conditions called for the developer to withdraw litigation appealing the township's rejection of the original plan that called for a multi-lot subdivision.


Norm Vargo is a freelance writer.


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