Ben Avon To Look At Dissolving Park Lease

A vote by Ben Avon Council to have new playground equipment installed at Avon Park turned into a motion to dissolve the lease for the park between Ben Avon Borough and Kilbuck Township.

In his report at the March 17 meeting, member Lloyd Corder asked council to approve submitting the paperwork to have new playground equipment, costing $42,765, installed at Avon Park. The borough already had received grant money from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to be used toward the purchase. Corder said that if half of the money was paid to Jeffrey Associates now to install the equipment, the borough would receive a 4 percent — or $800 — discount, which could be applied to the remainder of the bill.However, council member Mark Colenbrander commented, "I'd rather spend the $42,000 on the tennis courts. When I go by, I see people playing tennis, but I never see kids on the playground equipment."

The park, which is located in Kilbuck, has been a source of contention for the past several months. The main entrance is currently on Perrysville Avenue, with a pedestrian entrance on Walnut Road. Ben Avon wanted to change the main entrance to Walnut, because officials believed it would be safer both for pedestrian traffic and for security purposes. Some residents of Kilbuck, though, complained that such a switch would add more traffic to Walnut Road, and township supervisors voted against the change.

Corder also reported that Kilbuck applied for and received a Community Development Block Grant for $35,000, and planned to put the money into improving the entrance on Walnut. By a vote of 4-3, the motion to install the playground equipment was defeated, with Colenbrander, Dan Herchenroether, Ken Opipery Jr., and Todd Smith having the dissenting votes.

Herchenroether then made a motion to dissolve the lease for the park between Ben Avon and Kilbuck, and turn the park back over to Kilbuck. "This park doesn't work," he said. "It really fried me that Kilbuck wouldn't give us access (on Walnut Road). I've said it before, it's unusable. You could put in all the best equipment and all the best landscaping, but it's still unsafe. Let's give it back to them." "It's not safe," Colenbrander agreed, and, with regard to the pedestrian entrance, added, "If I'm going to drive to a park, I'll go to a nicer park." Someone pointed out that the money was coming from a grant, and Herchenroether replied, "I don't care if it's grant money, it's still taxpayer money and it's being flushed down the toilet."

Council member Sue Weiss said that while she agreed getting out of the lease for the park was a "valid discussion," she had concerns that council couldn't just vote the borough out of the lease. She suggested that they table the motion until they could review the terms of the lease. Judy Konitsney agreed. "I think we need legal counsel."

However, bringing in legal counsel could add to the dilemma, as Ben Avon solicitor Chuck Means is also the solicitor for Kilbuck, which could result in a conflict of interest. Herchenroether made a motion to rescind his original motion to dissolve the lease, and replaced it with one to ask Means to review the lease and see if and how it could be dissolved, and also to have Means let council know if he would have a conflict in handling it. That motion passed 5-2, with Corder and Weiss voting against it. Weiss pointed out that she was voting no simply because she believed too many issues had been brought up at one time, and there were too many important decisions to be made in one night.

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