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Penn Township fall festival to lose local aid

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Penn Township commissioners are reducing the money they give to the organizers of the township's annual fall festival and are considering restrictions on how much work township employees may do for the two-day event.

Commissioners are scrutinizing the expenses more because they estimate the township pays road workers, police officers and other staffers $20,000 for festival-related work, Commissioner Jeff Shula said Wednesday.

In particular, employees in the Public Works Department put in about 500 man hours to help prepare the festival grounds at Penn Township Municipal Park and other activities related to the fair, Shula said.

The commissioners, who are planning to vote Monday on a preliminary budget that does not include a tax increase, decided to halve their traditional $10,000 contribution to the festival to $5,000 in the 2014 spending plan.

“I'd rather spend the money toward something everyone can use than just a few people who come out,” Shula said.

Commissioners Ed Sullivan and Chuck Horvat said they wanted to keep the contribution at $10,000.

Though a committee organizes the festival, which stems back to the township's 150th anniversary in 2005, it's essentially a township-run event, Sullivan said.

“I still consider the fall festival as a Penn Township community event,” he said. “This isn't something run by just a group of people.”

Commissioner Paul Wersing said the public works crew lost a week of potential road-paving time in September because of festival-related work.

The problem, officials noted, was whether enough volunteers would be available to pick up the slack to prepare for the festival if township employees did less work. The township also would be liable for any issues related to the volunteer's efforts, Manager Bruce Light said.

On the other hand, a reduction in the township's pledges of workers toward the preparation could make it difficult for the festival to continue, officials acknowledged.

“In the past, they did try to fund-raise, and they did not get support,” finance director Linda Iams said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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