Plum athletic group in 'street fight'

| Friday, Sept. 23, 2011

About 75 people attended a meeting Thursday night called by the Plum Borough Athletic Association to inform its members about the borough's plan to terminate the group's lease.

The board urged its members, whose sons and daughters play baseball and softball at the borough fields across the street from the municipal building, to attend the Plum Council meeting Oct. 10.

The association oversees programs for about 1,200 children, ages 6 to 18.

"It is a street fight with them (council)," said board member Richard Donatelli.

"We have to stay together," said Ryan Auth, whose two children play for the PBAA.

The borough recently placed the association on notice that it intends to end the group's lease on the fields next month.

In a letter dated Sept. 15, Plum Solicitor Bruce Dice outlines six alleged violations of the lease, which is dated May 8, 1995.

The letter directs the athletic association to remove all personal items from the borough fields by Oct. 15.

The athletic association plans to seek an injunction in Allegheny County Court in an effort to prevent the lease termination, association Secretary Jim McGrath said.

The move to terminate the lease follows an Allegheny County District Attorney's Office investigation into whether the nonprofit group underreported income to the Internal Revenue Service. The investigation is ongoing.

The borough's letter does not mention that investigation.

Borough officials said the lease violations include construction of several structures and a paved walking trail on borough property without obtaining permits or permission.

The letter also says vending machines are being operated for private gain — another lease violation.

Roxanne Magrino, whose two sons play baseball for the PBAA, said she doesn't believe the alleged violations are the reason the borough is terminating the lease.

"I think they have a different agenda," said Magrino, 31, of Plum. "There's something going on they aren't telling us."

Association board member Paul Dern, a former borough councilman, said he will try to arrange a meeting between the two sides.

Councilman Mike Dell, contacted last night, referred questions about the potential for a meeting to Dice. Dice said he had no comment because a meeting "is speculation at this point."

Meanwhile, McGrath said the association is looking for storage space for its lawn mowers and other equipment and concession stand materials.

PBAA president Richard Claypoole said he wants to see the organization continue for the benefit of the children.

"It's not about me or Jim (McGrath) or anyone," Claypoole said. "It's about the kids."

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