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Vote on new O'Hara community center expected in August

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Renovations have stopped at the Boyd Community Center while bids come in.

Years of fundraising and planning for a new community center to serve the Lower Valley will come down to an O'Hara Council vote in August.

Members are expected to decide whether to move forward on the building, with a prebid estimated cost of $8.1 million, to replace the current Boyd Community Center on Powers Run Road.

A new complex would be built on the same 11-acre campus.

Council was expected to vote on July 8, but that meeting has been canceled.

As of June 27, about $7.5 million had been raised toward the project, township manager Julie Jakubec said.

With a $600,000 fundraising gap, not everyone favors moving ahead.

O'Hara resident Tom Portante questioned whether the balance, if organizers fail to collect it, would fall on the township. This, he said, would be irresponsible after council already has committed $2 million toward the project.

“At that point, the taxpayers will have put $2.6 million towards this building,” Portante said. “That's not what tax dollars are for.”

Organizers said they think they will be successful in bringing in enough money for the 28,000-square-foot center, which would include a gym, multipurpose room, meeting space and cafe. The Boyd center is in a former school.

“We are looking forward to the next round of bid openings and expect O'Hara Township and all of our staff and volunteers will work hard to make this long-awaited dream a reality,” community center board member Suzanne Alexander said.

“We are focusing on bringing in every single dollar so we can get shovels in the ground, as planned, this summer,” fellow board member Shelley Bitzer said. “Our team is confident that the doors to the new center will open in the summer of 2015 for all to enjoy.”

Council President Bob Smith said that council has no intention of raising taxes to cover the cost of the project.

Still, Portante wants construction delayed until the community center board raises enough money.

He said if council approves the center without the capital campaign raising enough money, it would become a burden to residents, especially if an emergency occurs.

“A major bridge failure or large landslide will leave us without ready funds to make quick repairs and in fact may require a tax increase to keep us solvent,” he said.

Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5 and 12 at the municipal building on Fox Chapel Road.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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