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Youngwood leaders frustrated by state's revival of playground dispute

Jacob Tierney
| Friday, May 13, 2016, 11:20 p.m.
According to the State Department of Labor and Industry, Youngwood’s municipal playground still isn’t up to code, and the borough never paid the fees or got the permits required to build it. Youngwood officials believe they’ve already made the necessary changes, are requesting a definitive list of required changes from the department in hopes of ending the year-and-a-half long issue.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
According to the State Department of Labor and Industry, Youngwood’s municipal playground still isn’t up to code, and the borough never paid the fees or got the permits required to build it. Youngwood officials believe they’ve already made the necessary changes, are requesting a definitive list of required changes from the department in hopes of ending the year-and-a-half long issue.

Youngwood officials hoped the legal wrangling surrounding code violations at the Sixth Street Playground was over, but a letter from the state Department of Labor & Industry has reignited the longstanding issue.

“I've been saying for a year and a half that I just want it to end,” borough council President Lloyd Crago said.

The letter says the playground is not up to code despite several changes that have been made at the state's request.

Youngwood officials said the letter doesn't specify what needs to be done to bring the playground into compliance. The letter says the borough lacked a permit to build the playground in the first place and owes fees for the permits it should have acquired.

This came as a surprise to borough leaders, who thought they had satisfied the state's requirements last year, Crago said.

In August, the borough spent $2,400 on a new swing and picnic table that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards to address problems found by a state inspector.

“Nobody could give us any direction on what was in violation, and I think they just kept making things up as they went,” Crago said. “We've done everything asked of us and they still won't close this up.”

Borough Solicitor Elsie Lampl is drafting a letter to the Department of Labor & Industry requesting a final, definitive list of what Youngwood needs to do to bring the playground into compliance. She said the borough did not think a permit was necessary when work on the playground started in 2014.

“(Council members) are frustrated because they have no idea they needed it, and they've been trying to be in compliance. They just want a list,” Lampl said.

A spokesman for the Department of Labor & Industry said the the Bureau of Occupational and Industrial Safety is investigating the playground's permitting and inspections, and that the department does not comment on ongoing investigations.

The department handled all building permits and inspections for the borough until this year, after a council vote to contract local inspector Mike Stack to handle the task.

Crago said the change was made to allow more immediate contact between the inspector and property owners. The state would sometimes take a long time to respond to requests, as illustrated by the playground situation, he said.

“We're following the same rules they do. We're not changing anything. It's just being run through the borough now, not the state,” he said. “We can expedite things to help the residents of our town.”

Since the playground was built before Stack took over, it is still under the state's jurisdiction.

The state issued a stop-work order for the playground while it was under construction in 2014 because of the lack of a permit. The borough submitted some drawings and documents in the hopes that they would satisfy the department, and work continued.

Then inspectors said the playground didn't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which led to the purchase of the swing and picnic table.

“This has been the most frustrating thing. I think it's been sort of a joke,” Crago said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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