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Charleroi council mulls Coyle Theater takeover

| Friday, July 11, 2014, 1:01 a.m.

If Charleroi takes control of the Coyle Theater project, it will be on the borough's terms, Mayor John Mollenauer said Thursday.

“If we take it over, we can start with a whole new board and everyone on there can be tossed,” Mollenauer said of the Mon Valley Cultural Trust.

The mayor and council members Larry Celaschi Jr., Paul Pivovarnik and Debbie Kruell-Buck recently met with trust officials, who want to turn over site control of the 119-year-old theater.

The trust was incorporated in 2000. It has gone through numerous personnel changes over the years. It owns the theater and two accompanying buildings, but little else.

Despite years of fundraising efforts by former trust boards, a representative of the nonprofit organization last month acknowledged that it has $100 to $500 in its accounts.

At one point, the trust had significant grant money for the project. But it failed to match $175,000 in Local Share Account grant money by a Dec. 31, 2012, deadline and state grant money totaling $250,000 by a spring 2013 deadline.

Local Share Account money is generated through gaming at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino in North Strabane Township.

Pivovarnik said the trust does not have enough members to form a quorum, but expects to rectify that situation shortly.

Trust representatives and the borough officials discussed the possibility of dissolving the organization and forming a new board under borough control.

He said the borough would set a timeline for the renovation project and establish a special commission to oversee fundraising and renovation efforts.

Celaschi said he worked at the Coyle during the mid- to late-1970s. Touring it recently, Celaschi said he was distraught over the condition of the historic theater.

“I was nearly brought to tears,” Celaschi said. “The place is just decrepit. It's going to take an exorbitant amount of money to rehabilitate the place.”

Meanwhile, Mollenauer welcomed Charleroi Regional Police Chief Eric Porter, who will be sworn in 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“I feel strongly about his loyalties, capabilities and availability,” Mollenauer said.

Mollenauer said Charleroi has three representatives on the regional police board, with Speers and North Charleroi each having two members.

Charleroi covers about 70 percent of the annual police budget. Charleroi police calls constitute at least 75 percent of the log, the mayor said. In June, 309 calls – more than 80 percent – were in Charleroi.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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