New ACORD Agreement Could Be Approved By Mid-Summer

A new ACORD Park agreement could be approved by local officials by July if representatives of the five member communities can agree on a voting structure for major park decisions and what park improvements should be made.

At the end of last year the original bond that had paid for the purchase of the park was paid off and municipal leaders began working on new financing options. Although the agreement among the communities that governs the operation of the park did not need to be changed, community leaders decided to work on consolidating the structure of the park’s governance at the same time as discussing new park projects and funding.

The working committee for ACORD Park, which met again on May 6, decided on a 25-member authority for the new governing structure of the park. Initially it was planned that the authority would be headed by a five-member executive committee, and include three standing committees: pool, park facilities, and maintenance and grounds. Emsworth representative George Rossi recommended and received support for the addition of a fourth standing committee, fund-raising and public relations.

Earlier plans also had the municipalities designating which committee that a person would serve on, but ACORD Board member Pat Wivell of Kilbuck Township stated that it could be harder to obtain volunteers to serve if people are assigned to a specific committee by their communities. Wivell noted that people assigned to a committee in which they are not particularly interested will not be as involved in the effort.

Representatives could not so easily agree on how decisions of the new authority will be reached.

Representatives of four of the five member communities wanted major park decisions to require a unanimous vote. Ohio Township Supervisor Herb Hartle, however, stated that a simple majority should decide all issues within the new authority.

"If you’re going to make significant changes such as selling the park, to be fair to everybody it should remain unanimous," said Ben Avon Council president Ken Opipery, Jr.

Community leaders again met resistance from one community on the issue of the number of park improvements and their cost, but this time it was Emsworth standing alone.

A revised list of projects provided to municipal leaders at an April 15 meeting would cost over $600,000. The list includes fixing the main bridge, partially resurfacing the parking lot, renovating the Kids Kingdom playground, and turning Miller Hall into a four-season property. The list did not include proposed improvements to the swimming pool or a possible splash park.

The addition of a splash park would cost between $300,000 and $400,000, according to authority chairman Scott Dismukes and Opipery, Jr., who said that the cost of improvements and the splash park could total $1.2 million.

"We’ll never go for that, we don’t have the money," Emsworth Council president Maria West said.

According to West, Emsworth Council favors a loan to finance improvements that would not exceed 10 years and would be for less than $1 million. Dismukes cautioned West that Emsworth ultimately will pay more per year for a loan if it only runs for 10 years, because of higher interest rates. West said that Emsworth Council has not yet viewed the revised list of projects, and that the added costs of a short-term loan might convince elected officials to change their minds.

Community leaders are expected to make additional changes to the plan at their next meeting. The agreement then will be presented to the governments of Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Emsworth, Kilbuck Township and Ohio Township for review and comment by elected officials and solicitors during June. If any changes are requested, the draft then could be modified in late June and a final draft could be voted on by the municipalities in July.

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