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New Florence council tries to determine who's in charge of playground

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 11:49 a.m.

A question of who should control the New Florence playground sparked a heated discussion at last week's council meeting, resulting in the resignation of recreation board President David Sheriff.

Council President Kelly Luther said council members have been reviewing the agreements and leases the borough holds with outside groups. When council members could find no paper trail outlining the history of management of the playground and athletic fields at the corner of 13th and Chestnut streets, they began to ask questions.

Although there's no official paperwork, Sheriff said the management of the playground passed from the borough to the local Lions Club via a gentlemen's handshake five decades ago.

This also means the Lions Club has collected rent money that's paid by families to hold reunions and birthdays on the property.

Councilwoman Sharon McGinnis said she's concerned because the borough owns the property, pays the electricity bills and carries its liability insurance.

The Lions Club has also held liability insurance for the property through its national organization, according to Sheriff.

Borough Supervisor Donald “Bobby” Ludwig has maintained the property using Lions Club and borough equipment, he said.

A third group, the borough's recreation board, also got involved several years ago when the community was approached by Ligonier Valley School District for the use of the athletic fields.

The recreation board collected that rental money, but stopped receiving any income two years ago when the district ended its agreement for the baseball field rental.

To further complicate matters, borough officials recently learned that state law dictates that recreation boards' checking accounts should be managed by borough officials, a practice that has not occurred in the past.

“There's just too many groups involved,” McGinnis said. “We should be controlling the money because we pay everything dealing with the playground.”

“Let's, at least, be reimbursed for what we're putting out financially,” Councilman Don Jones added.

Councilman Roger Sheriff said he doesn't want council members to add management of the playground to their already lengthy list of duties.

“Council has enough to worry about than to worry about which family or group is renting the property for an event,” Sheriff said. “I say, let the rec board handle it.”

David Sheriff said he felt if the borough took the control of the playground out of the recreation board's hands, there's little point in having the board in the future.

Luther said council doesn't necessarily want to assume the responsibilities of the recreation board.

Ultimately the discussion ended without any resolution when David Sheriff wrote out his letter of resignation at the meeting.

“It's an ongoing issue,” Luther said. “We're trying to find out what's going on, and how to move forward from here.”

Council members are hoping to meet with other recreation board members.

The next New Florence Borough Council meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or