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Groups angle for slice of RAD pie

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Alle-Kiski Valley libraries once again could be big beneficiaries under the 2015 Regional Assets District (RAD) tax distribution.

The RAD board of directors will be considering 104 applications submitted earlier this month. That won't happen until Dec. 1, according to David Donahoe, RAD's executive director.

The requests total $102 million.

The application submitted by the Allegheny County Library Association, for 44 libraries throughout the county and the association headquarters, asks for $6.4 million.

That includes $375,800 to operate four Alle-Kiski Valley libraries: the Community Library of Allegheny Valley; Oakmont Library; the Springdale Library and the Plum Borough Library.

The Community Library of Allegheny Valley, with branches in Harrison and Tarentum, seeks the largest allocation, $129,800.

Plum Borough would get $95,900, the Oakmont Library would receive $93,200 and Springdale is in line for $56,900.

Other RAD funds sought for the Valley include $5,800 for the Tarentum-based Alle-Kiski Valley Historical Society and $20,000 for the Audubon Society headquartered at Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel.

Also angling for money are the three county parks in the Valley: Harrison Hills in Harrison, Deer Lakes in West Deer and Boyce in Plum. How much they might receive is unknown.

Unlike the library association, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said the county parks department application does not break down the funding requests by each park. They would share the $20.5 million requested.

Donahoe said the Valley is included in the request from the Allegheny Land Trust, which is asking for about $285,000.

He said $40,000 of that money would be used to acquire property to complete the Rachel Carson Trail from Harrison Hills Park to the Laneville section of Freeport in Armstrong County.

“The primary focus has to be within Allegheny County, but the trails are a unique thing because they connect with other counties and even other states,” Donahoe said.

The RAD tax, a 1 percent additional sales tax granted to Allegheny County in 1995 by the state Legislature, provides the money.

It is shared among civic, cultural and recreational entities, libraries and parks throughout the county annually as well as being used to help pay the debt on Pittsburgh's sports stadiums and convention center.

Donahoe said an organization has to have nonprofit IRS 501c3 status or be a governmental agency to be eligible for the RAD grants.

“We are not allowed to fund parks under 200 acres so most municipal parks don't qualify,” he said. “We can't fund health care institutions or schools. As a matter of policy, the board doesn't fund roads or bridges; that's not what this is intended for.”

Dolly Mistrik, president of the Alle-Kiski Historical Society, which operates a museum in Tarentum, said her organization has always applied for the grants and usually gets them.

“We didn't for the last couple years,” she said. “They stopped it because they didn't have enough for everyone. Up until about two years ago, we did receive funds from them.”

Speaking of the 2015 application, Mistrik said, “We would like to update our technology. We need a better computer and software that will give us a better handle on our collection of artifacts.”

She said she is surprised on one hand that more Valley organizations don't apply for the money, but on the other hand she's not because of the detailed application process, which includes a presentation to the RAD board in person.

She thinks historical societies such as those connected to the Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale and the Burtner House in Harrison should apply.

Mistrik said that's especially because of the large number of organizations in Pittsburgh and other parts of the county that receive funding.

“We're keeping history alive here where people could walk to it and see it,” she said.

“We are paying the same taxes they do, and I just think that we should be able to use some of the funds.”

Robert Pfaffmann, a Pittsburgh architect who is president of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association, said the organization did not apply this year.

He said the homestead no longer has a paid staff and is run by volunteers.

“We are trying to recalibrate the mission of the organization to the house,” Pfaffmann said, “and if RAD can be a part of that in the future, it would be great.”

Gary Rogers, president of the Oakmont Historical Society which has a museum in Oakmont, said he did not think about applying.

“We're self-sufficient through our fundraisers and donations,” he said. “We are doing fine.”

He said the society might consider applying for RAD funds if it undertakes a capital project of some sort.

Cindy Homburg, president of the nonprofit Prospect Cemetery Association in Brackenridge, said the group did not apply for RAD funds, either.

Homburg has been desperately struggling to find a way to maintain the grounds of the cemetery, which has more than 700 veterans including some from the Revolutionary War and Civil War, buried there.

The Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association is among the 2015 applicants, seeking $10,000.

“I didn't know about that, actually,” Homburg said.

“I'm definitely going to look into this. If they are giving money to cemeteries, this is certainly a good thing. We've been trying to get back on our feet again and we can certainly use the money.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or

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