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Homer City considers funding options for play equipment

| Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Improved play areas for children in the community could be one of the needs Homer City asks its new grant writer to address.

Borough council at its regular Tuesday meeting approved a fee structure for grant writer Denise Jennings-Doyle, who will assist the borough on an as-needed basis. Town officials also cited children's play equipment as an item on their wish list and discussed potential funding sources.

“The In-Town Park desperately needs some playground equipment,” said borough manager Rob Nymick. He added that it has been five years since play equipment was updated at another of the town's recreational areas, Floodway Park.

“There's a lot of recreation money out there,” Nymick said. “I think we can get some money.”

Member Chris Worcester also presented information for council to review concerning Playful City USA, a national recognition program sponsored by the Humana Foundation that honors cities and towns “investing in children through play.”

According to the organization's website, municipalities that become recognized as Playful City USA communities can then apply for grants available through KaBOOM! — a nonprofit “dedicated to saving play for America's children.”

Council members are to review information about the grant for discussion at their next meeting.

Police Chief Louis Sacco additionally noted that the United States Department of Agriculture's rural communities grant program offers funding for parks.

Council member Jennifer Jaworski, who is one of the borough's representatives on the Homer-Center Parks and Recreation Board reported the United Way has provided funding to install grills at three sites under the rec board's jurisdiction, including Floodway Park.

President Richard Morris noted that a decision by the full borough council will be required when directing Jennings-Doyle to apply for specific grants.

Nymick indicated the borough “will do as much of the legwork as we can” before Jennings-Doyle prepares a grant application.

Council unanimously approved the rates requested by Jennings-Doyle: $250 for writing a grant application for a borough project and another $250 if the application is successful. The fees will increase to $350 in advance and another $350 if successful for grants jointly pursued by the borough and another entity.

“I think that's a fair price,” said Jaworski, who noted that a friend charges $35 per hour for similar work.

The council motion stipulated that the borough would not pay the entire fee if another entity would also benefit from the resulting grant.

It's been noted that Jennings-Doyle, a native of the Homer-Center area, has written grant applications for other organizations including the Homer-Center Historical Society.

“She'll be a great asset to the borough, helping us get grants,” said councilman Matt Black.

In a related matter, council tabled action on a letter from borough resident Richard Kundla seeking appointment to a vacancy on the Homer-Center Parks and Rec Board. Kundla noted he was recently employed by the rec board and has operated a lawn service. Center Township and Homer-Center School Board also appoint representatives to the rec panel.

Morris asked borough solicitor Michael Supinka to research options council has to address a residential property in the 400 block of South Main Street that has been described as an eyesore and a potential hazard for children.

Carol Kercel, who is the owner and landlord of a neighboring home at 453 S. Main, wrote to council to express concerns about the house.

She cited junk on the property along with “high grass constantly in need of mowing and weeds up to four feet tall.” She said unsecured windows in the house have allowed in animals and precipitation.

Kercel expressed concern for the safety of passing schoolchildren and her tenant's two children who might venture onto the property.

“I, too, find it to be quite concerning,” Morris said of the property.

Sacco noted the borough police department “doesn't deal with code issues” concerning the safety of a house itself. But the police are charged with enforcing requirements for keeping grass trimmed.

Sacco said police have repeatedly issued letters for high grass at the property, but the grass has always been cut within the five-day period specified and a citaton has never been issued.

Sacco added that police have cited two vacant residences, on Kunkle Avenue and East Elm Street, for high grass. He noted one of the properties is facing a sheriff's sale while the owner of the other has moved from the area, possibly to Ohio.

In police matters, Mayor Ken “Cal” Cecconi said he may ask council to hire four part-time officers next month due to recent resignations. He said interviews are planned with five candidates.

Sacco said the borough received a $1,500 PA Buckle Up grant that will be used in a safety belt enforcement campaign running Monday through Sept. 22. The campaign will target teen drivers on and around the local school campus.

Council adopted a resolution noting it will not have to make a contribution this year to the borough police pension fund.

In his manager's report, Nymick said borough crews have replaced 11 stop signs at various locations and 24 more signs have been ordered. Crews also are clearing away brush that is blocking some signs from view.

Following paving on Columbia Avenue, Nymick said, some curbs will need to be rebuilt to repair cracked or broken areas that are allowing water runoff to penetrate to the sidewalk.

At the request of Homer-Center High School Principal Jody Rainey, borough officials agreed to block traffic on Main Street for the school's Homecoming parade at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 27. The parade will begin at the fire hall, heading south along Main Street and ending at the Memorial Field football stadium.

Council received a letter from the Homer-Center Historical Society thanking the borough for its assistance with the duck race the society recently staged.

Council tabled a request by Shirley Nealer to subdivide her residential property at 46 E. Church St., creating a separate parcel for a storage garage. Nymick noted the request, due to the non-conforming size of the smaller garage parcel, must first be considered by the borough planning commission.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or

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