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Rivers Casino taxes will fund projects

| Monday, June 24, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

A group of 19 building projects ranging from sewers to ballet studios hit the jackpot recently when Allegheny County awarded $6.5 million in grants from taxes levied on the Rivers Casino.

The grants, which ranged from $200,000 to $500,000 each, came from a $34 million pool of casino levies in the state's Gaming Economic Development Fund.

Lawmakers initially set aside the money to subsidize the construction of a convention center hotel in Pittsburgh. That project failed to materialize after developers said the price tag was too high even with subsidies from gambling taxes.

So the Legislature directed that the money be awarded to projects in Allegheny County over 10 years, beginning in 2011.

Dennis Davin, the county's director of economic development, said nearly 60 projects vied for grants this year.

“There's a little bit of everything,” he said.

The Allegheny Land Trust's project to restore and develop the Pittsburgh Cut Flower site, a 180-acre brownfield in Richland, received $500,000.

Davin said the trust's plans call for commercial and residential development of 30 acres and the preservation of 150 acres as public green space.

Cultural and arts grants include: $200,000 to the Pittsburgh Ballet for expansion of its dance school; $500,000 toward safety upgrades at Heinz Hall; $350,000 for the Village Theater, a community theater in Sewickley; $200,000 to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland for renovations; and $200,000 to the Carnegie Science Center for renovations.

Infrastructure grants include $500,000 for a major intersection upgrade in Aspinwall; $410,000 for repairs to Fall Run Road in Shaler; $250,000 for a sanitary sewer project in Pine; $500,000 for road and bridge repairs in Elizabeth Township; $400,000 for water meter replacements in Etna; and $200,000 for infrastructure installations at the Nike site in West Deer.

Industrial parks located in Bethel Park, Moon and Marshall also received grants from the fund, as did projects at the Pittsburgh Early Childhood Development Center, the Sampson Family YMCA in Plum, the Sarah Heinz House on the North Side and Presbyterian Senior Care in Oakmont.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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