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Latrobe eyes rec board lease to support playground grant request

Jeff Himler
| Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, 10:06 p.m.
Brad Burkardt of Latrobe shoots during a men’s summer basketball league held by Latrobe-Unity Parks and Recreation on Wednesday, July, 29, 2015 at First Ward Playground.
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
Brad Burkardt of Latrobe shoots during a men’s summer basketball league held by Latrobe-Unity Parks and Recreation on Wednesday, July, 29, 2015 at First Ward Playground.

Latrobe City officials may need to formalize a lease granting the Latrobe-Greater Latrobe School District Parks and Recreation Commission use of the First Ward playground as the commission applies for a state grant to make improvements at the site at Ligonier and Oak streets.

City manager Wayne Jones recommended Monday that council send a letter to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, asking it to proceed with the grant application. But he noted the city may need to approve a 25-year playground lease since one hasn't been found on record.

According to Director Craig Shevchik, the commission wants to update play equipment, resurface four basketball courts and improve handicapped accessibility at the playground as part of an application for the $380,000 state grant, due April 10.

State officials should decide in October whether to approve the funding, some of which would be used to upgrade other play areas, including equipment at Legion Keener Park, Shevchik said. “Hopefully, they'll look favorably on our grant so we can start work in the spring of 2019,” he said.

The commission would help cover the project costs with some of the $200,000 the school district paid when it took over the city's Old Athletic Field for construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School — in the process, displacing the commission's dek hockey rink.

Shevchik noted some of those local funds were spent pursuing development of a new rink near Latrobe's Memorial Stadium, before the commission decided to rent an existing rink at Westmoreland County's Twin Lakes Park.

City officials noted Latrobe Fire Department also uses the First Ward playground for an annual summer festival and for a holiday season bonfire.

Council would need to pass an ordinance to approve a lease with the parks and recreation commission, city solicitor Zachary Kansler said.

Councilman Jim Kelley suggested the city check the status of leases for all its recreational properties. “I think it would be a good idea to clean that up in the near future,” he said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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