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Donora eyes new park

| Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

Donora could have a new park and walking track in its future.

Garnering applause from dozens of citizens in attendance, Donora council on Thursday followed up a proposal by two residents to begin the process of creating what will be known as First Street Community Park.

The proposed site is a vacant lot at First Street and Castner Avenue which is owned by the borough.

Two residents, Zack Fleming and Tyler Mengler, pitched the idea for the project and asked council to accept the Ringgold School District's donation of playground equipment from the former Donora Elementary Center to be used at the new location.

Borough officials and administrator Dennis Fisher will look over the equipment and make sure it is structurally sound before council accepts the equipment February's meeting. A pavilion now at the property would also be relocated to the new park.

Using an overhead map of the property, Mengler, a recent college graduate, drew up plans for the 3-acre rectangular area that formerly housed Donora Junior High School.

The area, Mengler proposed, would be encompassed by a fence at least 8 feet high for security purposes. An oval walking track made of stone would made of be installed around the park's perimeter.

A cement basketball court would be installed at the west end of the property with the possibility of a community garden at the park's center. The playground equipment would be located at the other end of the park, opposite the basketball court.

Mengler vowed to obtain significant grant money from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Grant applications are due in April.

There is no cost estimate for the project, but Mengler insisted tax money will not be necessary. Councilman and recreation chairman Jimmie Coulter, who supports the project, said the borough may have to eventually match some of the grant money but added $26,000 is already budgeted in 2014 for parks and recreation.

Fleming said he could enlist volunteers to not only help with the park's creation but to keep an eye on activities inside the park.

“It all depends how much time people are willing to volunteer, too. People can come here and say we're going to help, but when it's time to do it, they have to show up,” Coulter said. “I really think the people of Donora want this project and a place for all the families to enjoy.”

After the meeting, Coulter floated the possibility of having younger workers maintain and oversee the park for a few hours a day five days a week during the summer.

“It depends what kind of grants are available out there, but this is needed so badly,” he said. “Where are the kids in that neighborhood supposed to go, Palmer Park? We need a new recreational area.”

Coulter noted the proximity of Chub's Pub and said council would find out if there is a stipulation stating how close a public park can be to a tavern.

Council then revisited the donation of a 2000 Ford Explorer from the police department to the Ringgold School District. The transaction was approved in October, but council reapproved the donation Thursday after questions over whether it involved a conflict of interest with council president Dr. Karen Polkabla, who is also the Ringgold superintendent.

The measure passed 5-1 with Polkabla abstaining and Coulter voting no. Coulter said there were already police vehicles with more than twice the 65,815 miles on the Explorer and that the vehicle could be repaired “in house” for less than $1,000.

Mayor John Lignelli commended the Mon Valley Leathernecks and Wally Fronzaglio for a prolific annual toy drive. Lignelli said 540 families and more than 1,000 kids received toys at Christmas.

Animal Control Officer Patsy Vince warned residents to renew licenses for any dog over 3 months old as the permits expired Dec. 31, no matter what date they were obtained in 2013.

Vince said renewals could be filled out at the borough building or accessed on line through the Washington County Treasurer's office.

Council approved a 3 percent wage increase for full-time, non-union borough employees for the 2014 fiscal year and approved a motion to remove trees from planters on McKean Avenue from Fifth to Seventh streets. Councilman Tom Kostolansky, who has a law practice in the area, noted the mess the trees leave on sidewalks — particularly during autumn.

As part of the motion, council decided to revisit replacing the trees with flowers or other plants — or possibly ditching the planters altogether — at a future meeting.

Council approved a proposed subdivision mapped out by Fisher that would allow the borough to keep two baseball fields and a concession stand adjacent to the former Donora Elementary Center. The Ringgold School District, which currently owns the property, rejected the first subdivision plan.

Fisher said the subdivision would ensure the fields and stand could still be used by the Donora Baseball Association.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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