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Unity rejects grant for Marguerite tot lot

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A breakdown in communication and a misunderstanding among Unity officials and a playground committee appear to be behind the township's rejection of a $42,000 state grant to install a tot lot at a Marguerite play area, representatives from the township and recreation group said Thursday.

Jeanne Ashley, executive director of the Latrobe-Unity Parks & Recreation Commission, said she told members of the Central-Unity Township Community Association Thursday in Latrobe that she would be willing to work with them on improvements to Central Park in Marguerite, but the recreation commission board last week decided to use the $42,000 grant toward improvements at Cardinal Park in Latrobe. There appeared to be “a lack of communication” and “differences of opinion” among playground committee members during the meeting, Ashley said.

The commission voted to redirect the money after Ashley told the commission the Unity supervisors had informed her the township was turning down the $42,000 grant, which required a $6,000 match.

Unity Supervisor Jake Blank said Thursday the community association told him they did not want the money for a tot lot. The township was willing to provide $6,000 in services to meet the requirements of the matching grant, if the playground committee wanted it, Blank said.

Ashley said she contacted the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which awarded the grant last October, for permission to use the money for Cardinal Park. The decision would not be reversed unless the recreation commission approves the move, Ashley said.

John Guarino, president of the community association, said the community association was told by township officials that a $20,000 match was needed to obtain the grant for a tot lot, not $6,000. Guarino said the committee had raised $6,000 for the project, but did not have the $20,000 to match the grant, so it rejected the money.

Guarino said the community association would be willing to provide the $6,000 matching grant, if it could salvage the $42,000 grant.

“By all means, we would give her a $6,000 check for that,” Guarino said.

Jim Yokopenic, a community association member, said the group turned down the grant because it believed the money could not be used for anything but the playground equipment for youngsters.

“We did not want it (money) for that purpose. Our next project was the walking track,” said Yokopenic, who conceded there may have been a misunderstanding among committee members.

Developing a walking track was a priority for the community association, but the state grant that the recreation commission sought was not sufficient to create a walking track, Guarino said.

Mary Jane Noonan, vice president of the community association, said other members were not consulted about rejecting the grant for a tot lot.

“We do want to expand the playground for a tot lot. We were promised the tot lot at least five years ago. It hurts me that we lost $42,000 for a new playground,” Noonan said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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