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N. Belle Vernon councilman calls for joint effort on events

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 3:31 p.m.

A North Belle Vernon councilman is seeking the support of other Mon Valley municipalities in a joint effort to publicize and promote activities and events at their community parks in Washington, Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

By getting multiple municipalities to work together on park activities, North Belle Vernon Councilman Robert J. Sokol is hoping that more events can be held at the community parks, such as movie nights and concerts, cooking classes, exercise classes, lacrosse camps, dodgeball tournaments, relay races, street hockey tournaments, yard sales and craft sales.

“With such activities as a concert in the park and movies at night, we can share the cost by offering artists the ability to perform at more places for a cheaper price to the municipalities,” Sokol wrote in a letter to officials in 32 different Mon Valley communities.

“The idea is simple – share resources. Everybody wins,” Sokol said.

By publicizing the events of a neighboring community park, Sokol said it should increase attendance at events and that could bring in more customers for local businesses.

“I hope this is a great idea for the Mon Valley,” Sokol said.

The councilman envisions creating a website that will list all of the community parks in the Mon Valley and a calendar of events at those parks. The website would include directions to those parks and contacts for those interested in holding events at the park.

“Every park would have their own page. I'm hoping to get volunteers from the different communities to step up and help,” said Sokol, who was recently appointed to council to serve the unexpired term of the late Betty Shine Hill, who died in May. Shine-Hill had been elected to a four-year term in November 2013.

Sokol estimated that it would cost between $400 and $800 to create and design the website. He hopes that participating communities would divide the cost.

“We can support each other,” said Sokol, whose brother, Brian, is a Rostraver Township commissioner.

Sokol said he is awaiting a response from his letter and hopes to meet in August to organize the initiative and form a plan. He anticipates it could take a few months to finalize any action because of the need to get approval from local governing bodies.

In addition to spearheading an initiative to publicize and cross-promote events at community parks, Sokol is working to revitalize North Belle Vernon's community park along Graham Street.

Sokol said there are plans for a new playground that is handicapped-accessible and a synthetic turf that will be suitable for soccer. The soccer field would replace the tennis courts that Sokol said are underutilized.

The borough has applied for a $150,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and he has received commitments of an additional $100,000 in donations from area organizations, Sokol said. The area organizations will provide financial support if the state approves the grant, Sokol said.

“I can't think of a park more convenient in the (Mon) Valley,” Sokol said.

The park, located just off the North Belle Vernon exit of Interstate 70, is a 15-minute drive from eight school districts and 22 municipalities, Sokol said.

“Instead of getting rid of the park, we decided to take it to the next level,” Sokol said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or