Cancellation of Penn Hills event leads to resignation
The cancellation of a second annual, adult-friendly event in one of Penn Hills’ parks has led to the resignation of a Recreation Advisory Board member and other residents angered by the decision.
Penn Hills Manager Scott Andrejchak said in a news release Sept. 26 that “Autumn in the Hills,” scheduled for Oct. 12, is canceled.
Andrejchak said the decision was made after weighing “liability exposure relating to alcohol service that the municipality cannot responsibly carry.”
“The decision is in the best interest of the municipality,” Andrejchak wrote.
In an email, Andrejchak declined to comment beyond what was included in the prepared statement.
“On behalf of Penn Hills, I apologize for any inconvenience the cancellation may cause to those who planned to attend the event,” he wrote, adding the event’s funding would be reallocated to “improving storm-damaged Penn Hills (Community) Park.”
Parks Director John Scaglione was not immediately available to respond.
Melissa Waldron, former Recreation Advisory Board member and Penn Hills resident, said in a Facebook post she wrote in response to the cancellation that an unnamed person complained about the event.
She said the anonymous complaint led to a meeting between advisory board members and Andrejchak.
“(Andrejchak) told us he was most likely shutting it down. And why? Alcohol! Because grown-ups in Penn Hills can’t be grownups … too much of a liability. We can’t have nice things like our surrounding communities. What an embarrassment,” Waldron wrote.
Waldron said she suggested removing the alcoholic element to the event and reallocate those funds to purchase children-friendly games and activities.
“I guess he didn’t feel like entertaining that solution,” she wrote, adding the manager agreed to give the group until Sept. 27 to come up with a solution.
She said Autumn in the Hills’ cancellation was her “last straw,” listing two other events that were canceled earlier this year.
“The advisory board’s existence felt like a formality,” Waldron said in a separate interview with the Tribune-Review. “I think we were underutilized in the decision-making process. Agendas were not provided before our meetings. All of that can be really frustrating.”
Waldron also resigned from the municipality’s Summerfest Committee, Autumn in the Hills Committee and Sunday Concerts in the Park group – volunteer positions she’s held for four years.
“After four years I’m ready for a break. I’ll definitely miss it,” she said.
“I understand the liability risk for this event,” Waldron said. “But there was no solid attempt to rectify the situation. The fate of the event felt like it had already been decided before we met with the municipal manager. Mr. Andrejchak verbally gave us until Friday to come up with solutions to still have our event but then on Thursday he announced it was canceled anyway, and didn’t alert us ahead of time.”
Despite her grievances, Waldron lauded Scaglione for his work as parks director and assistant superintendent of public works.
She urged people to call the municipality at 412-342-1086 if they “are as outraged over this as I am.”
Waldron’s post, found on a public Facebook group called “This is Penn Hills,” was shared 10 times and had nearly 80 comments – most of which indicated they were disappointed by the cancellation.
Last year’s inaugural event included access to food trucks, a selection of beer, hard cider and wine, axe throwing, inflatable battles, corn hole, pumpkin decorating and gambling. Plans called for capping the evening with a screening of the 1985 cult classic film, “The Goonies.” However, rain prevented that.
Waldron said last year’s event drew around 150 people. She said this year’s event, which aligned with the park’s 50th anniversary, was to include parlor-type games including darts, billiards, table soccer, bubble hockey and games of chance.
The event was free to attend and sponsored by the Penn Hills Parks and Recreation Department.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .