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New Kensington to spend most of $50,000 in grants on recreation projects

| Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, 12:26 a.m.

New Kensington officials on Tuesday announced about $50,000 in grants will flow into the city for a variety of mostly recreation-related projects.

Mayor Tom Guzzo said the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County this week alerted recipients of the awards, which are part of the new Revitalizing Westmoreland initiative.

Guzzo said the city was awarded $20,000 to be used toward a larger project of refurbishing tennis courts and installing a dek hockey court at Memorial Park.

The foundation money will be used as part of the city's match for a $250,000 state grant awarded for the park project in October.

Guzzo had estimated the total cost would be about $300,000; he hoped it would be completed in time for next summer.

Other foundation grants will benefit Memorial Park.

The New Ken/Arnold Social in the Park group received $20,000 that it will use toward renovations of pavilions.

Group member Cindy Downard said the money will be combined with donations raised during the fall social to upgrade the roofs, downspouts and electrical systems of two main park pavilions. Any leftover money will be used for picnic tables and other amenities.

“We're really excited,” Downard said about the grant.

She said the group is teaming again with the city and the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center, whose students will help complete the work as they have in previous park projects.

She said those involved will meet early in the new year to put together a plan and timeframe; she is hopeful the pavilions will be renovated in time for summer.

Local Boy Scout Leo Capone was awarded $1,600 for a war memorial at the park as part of his Eagle Scout project.

A grant for $4,500 was awarded to Westmoreland County Community College for the community garden in downtown New Kensington, Guzzo said.

Christopher Whitlatch, a spokesman for the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, on Wednesday said Lower Burrell also received almost $9,000 for a community recreation program. No other local projects were included in this grant round of Revitalizing Westmoreland.

The pilot program offered $150,000 this year and a similar amount in each of the next two years for revitalization projects that benefit Arnold, Lower Burrell, New Kensington, Latrobe, Greensburg, Jeannette or Monessen.

Andre Carter, a New Kensington business owner and a volunteer on the city's recreation commission, said he was told his request for almost $7,500 to sponsor the PA Shooting Stars Summer Basketball Program next year was not included in the 2014 Revitalizing Westmoreland grants, but would still be funded by the foundation.

Carter said he will open the free program to kids from kindergarten to high school seniors from throughout the region, not just from New Kensington and Arnold. The program will be run from the basketball courts at JFK Playground beside city hall from about May to July.

Carter, who is involved in a traveling basketball program, said the summer program will be similar to the former Gosby “Goose” Pryor summer league that operated for more than a dozen years in the city.

Guzzo said he was proud of the response by community groups to take advantage of the program and thought it a good sign that about a third of the money available this year will benefit New Kensington.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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