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West Newton mayor backs dog park

| Tuesday, June 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

West Newton needs a fenced-in dog park so that residents can have a place to walk their dogs without having to worry about their pet depositing a mess on someone else's property, the borough's mayor told council on Monday.

If the borough would establish a park for people's pets to frolic, Mayor Mary Popovich said such a place would cut down the number of calls that police receive “for drive-by pooping” by people walking their pets.

Even when residents tell police they know which dog left a pile in their yard, Popovich said, with a straight face, “you can't do a DNA on it.”

Residents along Cort Street suggested to her that the borough establish a dog park in a borough-owned field along that road, which ends by the CSX Corp. railroad tracks, Popovich said. The borough would not want a dog park in a section of one of the borough's parks, because children might step in the bacteria-laden mess, the mayor said.

A dog park could be monitored by volunteers and have containers where dog owners can deposit the dog droppings. The dog park also could attract people to that section of town and would be good for visitors who stay at the local bed and breakfast, across the Youghiogheny River from the Cort Street field.

“We could be the first small borough to have a dog park,” Popovich said.

Council President George Molovich said after the meeting that the idea sounds good initially, but it would cost the borough to fence-in an area for the pets. The borough's liability insurance might increase because of the possibility of someone being bitten or two dogs getting into a fight, Molovich said.

In other business, Charles Wade, borough solicitor, told council it will have to decide whether to take back ownership of the John C. Plummer House on North Water Street from the Mon Valley Initiative Inc. of Homestead, or permit the nonprofit organization to pay the state close to $19,000.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources previously informed the borough it did not have the right to sell the property to the Mon Valley Initiative for $1 in August 2011, because the state grant West Newton received contained a provision that the structure not be sold without state approval.

Wade called the matter “a can of worms” that was created because a former mayor told council that a Project 70 grant from the state was not used to buy the building. After the meeting, Wade identified George Thuransky as the former mayor who provided the wrong information to council.

When contacted after the meeting, Thuransky said that he was relaying to council information about the state grant that he had received from a former Westmoreland County Department of Planning official.

The Mon Valley Initiative had said it would pay the state between $18,000 and $20,000, which it estimated would be the value of the $1,250 state grant the borough used in 1968 to buy the structure, plus 46 years worth of interest at an annual rate of 6 percent, Wade said.

The problem, however, is that the Mon Valley Initiative, an economic development organization, wants to wait until it sells the property before paying the state the money it wants, Wade said.

“What they propose is a Catch-22. They have to pay the money before it is resold,” and the state will not allow the Mon Valley Initiative to sell the property, Wade said.

The borough needs state Rep. Ted Harhai, the Monessen Democrat who represents West Newton, to introduce a bill in the General Assembly that would eliminate the state's restriction on the sale of the property.

Molovich suggested that the borough “expedite it as fast as we can.”

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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