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Arnold bicycle reunion doesn't work as hoped

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Hans Unruh, 10, of New Kensington inspects one of 50 bicycles in the Arnold City Hall basement on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, to make sure it is the one stolen from his grandmother's yard last year. The city is trying to reunite owners with their lost or stolen bicycles.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013, 12:21 a.m.
 

Arnold officials were only able to reunite two children with their lost bicycles on Wednesday.

Councilman Anthony “Butch” Sgalio scheduled a six-hour open house of sorts at the city hall basement in an attempt to find the owners of more than 50 bicycles that police have recovered since 2009.

However, fewer than a dozen people had stopped as of 6 p.m. Wednesday with only an hour left to go in the advertised time period to claim a bike.

“It's disappointing,” said Sgalio. “We want to give them back.”

One bay in the basement was filled with bicycles of all sizes, shapes and conditions, each tagged with the location and date it was collected by police.

Some bikes appeared brand new with shiny stickers and bright paint; others were covered in dull spray paint and duct tape. There was a mix of children's and adult sizes.

There was even one motorized bike.

Hans Unruh, 10, of New Kensington was one of the lucky people reunited with his bicycle.

His grandmother, Sharon Bolkovac of Riverside Drive, said two bicycles belonging to Hans and his brother were stolen from her yard over a year ago. One bike was returned the same day, but Hans' was never recovered.

“He's very excited,” Bolkovac said. “I had picked him up one from the Goodwill store, but it wasn't the same.”

Tiffany Clark of Kenneth Avenue said her son, Ashton Crawford, also was pleased to recover his bicycle.

“He was happy — he didn't even care that it was spray-painted,” Clark said.

Walter “Butch” Kelly, a city employee who helped man the impromptu bike shop, initially thought they didn't have Ashton's bike when he stopped by about 2 p.m. to describe it.

It wasn't recognized at first because it had been painted, likely in an attempt to prevent anyone from recognizing it as stolen.

Clark said the bike was only about a month old when it was stolen from her backyard last summer. She bought Ashton a mountain bike to replace it, but he preferred a regular bicycle.

“I'm stuck riding my sister's bike,” Ashton told Kelly as he waited with the hot pink bike. “It's better than no bike.”

Sgalio said the bicycles not claimed will be donated to charity, as the basement space needs to be cleared to make room for recycling equipment.

Sgalio has a family connection to Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect, Butler County, where he believes some of the bikes can be used on camp trails.

He's reluctant to donate the bikes to anyone in Arnold because he doesn't want to risk causing a confrontation if the new owner encounters a previous owner and is accused of stealing.

Anyone trying to claim a bicycle on Wednesday was asked to describe their bike and when it went missing to confirm they were the owner.

Arlene Mercurio of New Kensington was one of the people who walked away empty-handed.

She was trying to find two adult Schwinn bicycles that were stolen from her Esther Avenue garage last year. She said the garage was broken into twice within a year; once New Kensington police recovered the bikes, but they weren't found after the second burglary.

Sgalio suggested she and others who didn't find their bikes in Arnold to check with New Kensington and Lower Burrell police to see if they were found in another city.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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