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Allegheny Regional Asset District weighs 104 requests

| Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Port Authority's surprising $3 million request last year for public funding normally limited to libraries, parks, stadiums and cultural groups did not inspire any copycats this year.

The Allegheny Regional Asset District's deadline for funding applications passed on Monday with 104 organizations seeking a total of $102.7 million for 2014. That's $1.2 million more than for 2013. The five additional requests all came from cultural groups.

“There's no real surprises, nothing dramatic or unusual I've seen yet,” said David Donahoe, RAD's executive director. RAD supports so-called “regional assets” with half of the proceeds of an additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County.

RAD's board last year approved Port Authority's request because of its “significant regional impact and an urgent unmet need.” Port Authority is asking for $3 million for next year.County and state leaders worked out an arrangement that allowed the transportation agency to use RAD and drink tax money as a local match to get state money that staved off service cuts.

Donahoe said he was not surprised that groups asked for about as much money as last year.

“I do think reality tempers them,” he said.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh made the largest request at $22.6 million, compared to $21.9 million last year. The figure consists of $19.7 million for operations and $2.9 million for the Electronic Information Network that is the digital infrastructure for all libraries in the county.

“Part of the strategic plan is looking at how technology impacts our library users so we are able to provide the services that they need,” said Carnegie spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes.

The new applicants were the Kaufmann Center of Hill House Association, Mon River Arts, Off the Wall Productions, the Pittsburgh School for the Choral Arts and The Clemente Collection at Engine House 25.

Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of Hill House, assured that her group would not use RAD money for its social service programs. It is requesting $55,000 for theater operations and $70,903 to improve its stage and upgrade space for art shows.

“We're elevating the number of performances and the art that's being displayed in that facility,” she said. “We're paying homage to our history. We want to be part of raising the profile even higher.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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