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Bailey Park will not be converted to business use

| Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Several area garden clubs' fears of losing tax-free land at Marshall Park were put to rest Tuesday by Uniontown City Council.

Six garden clubs addressed council Tuesday in hopes they could persuade council to not let green land at Marshall Park, located on East Church Street, be developed into businesses a business section. The fears arose after the Marshall Park area, along with three other properties in Uniontown, was approved by government officials for Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) status in May.

The three properties were part of 10 tax-exempt acres given to the city by the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority. The KOZ status will be used to encourage investment in areas that are experiencing different types of distress.

Connie Strohm, president of the Uniontown Area Garden Club, told council that having the park in a KOZ status is "not acceptable in our eyes."

Strohm added the green space in the park offers a haven for the two highrises located next to the park. She suggested the KOZ status be transferred to another part of the city.

Green Gardener Club President Valerie Sesler of Uniontown said she would hate to see the history of the park go in place of building businesses in a tax-free zone for 10 years.

Doris Stone, Green Gardener Club member, said the green space must be preserved for the memorial plaques posted on the trees and for children to have a place to play that's not on asphalt.

The park's location next to the library, said Stone, is an area that has many children around, and a commercial property would endanger children with the increase of traffic in the area.

Uniontown Mayor James Sileo told the roomfull of club members that they made their point and Marshall Park would not be sold. He told them council had no intention of selling the park when it approved the area in the KOZ status.

Councilman Joe Giachetti, who's the head of the department of parks and public property, said he'll work hard to make sure the green space for the park is not threatened.

The council has until September to vote to remove the KOZ status away from the park area.

Uniontown Fire Chief Myron Nypaver reported on summer activities. He said as of June 30, 32 properties of absentee or deceased owners have been cleaned up by city employees.

Sileo said the city is leaning on these absentee property owners, charging them $125 each time the property has to be cleared in part of the beautification efforts of Uniontown to attract people to the city.

Nypaver reported three properties were condemned because they were unfit for human occupancy and three properties have been demolished, which totals 55 demolished structures since 1999.

"We still have a long way to go," said Nypaver.

William Long, executive director for the Uniontown Redevelopment Authority, said the authority is working hand-in-hand with the city in the demolition of properties as well as the reuse of vacant properties.

Long reported the authority's involvement with the Heritage highrise is reaching the completion of reconstruction from the fire damage and may have 100 percent occupancy in the near future.

Giachetti added he'll be working with the Uniontown Redevelopment Authority and the Fayette County Redevelopment Authority on grants for a beautification project in Bailey Park.

Nypaver also stressed the importance of firework safety to anybody planning on having fireworks this July 4.

The only fireworks permitted in Pennsylvania are Class C fireworks, which are the ones that don't explode, but even the legal fireworks, like the ones that emit showers of sparks, must be used with caution.

"Use common sense," said Nypaver, who added that people like to have fun on Independence Day, but fail to think about consequences of legal and illegal fireworks.

Also at Tuesday's meeting:

  • Council appointed Aaron Lantz, Dana Dillard, Mark Lovey, Charles Coldren and James Over to the Uniontown Recreation Board.

  • Mary Cluss, Edward Hyjurick and Ralph Warman were re-appointed to the Uniontown Public Library Board for a term not to exceed three years.

  • James Sampson was appointed to the Uniontown Redevelopment Authority for a five-year term.

  • In a 3-1 vote, Councilman Bob Cerjanec was assigned the duties and responsibilities of the director of the sanitation department.

  • Councilman Blair Jones asked citizens not to push grass clippings onto the street.

  • Sileo reported speed traps are out throughout the city. He reminded residents that the potted flowers along the sidewalks are not garbage cans.

  • The next Uniontown City Council meeting will be held Aug. 5 at noon.

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