Skate plaza hits speed bumps

Bellevue Council voted Tuesday to delay a parking lot expansion project at Bayne Park that would cost some $21,000.

The project, according to assistant director of administrative services (DAS) Katie Hale, would make the park more handicapped accessible, creating a wider driveway, sidewalks and additional parking.

The work needs to be done in order for the borough to qualify for the skate plaza grants, Hale said, but that was news to some council members.

Several council members noted that council has repeatedly been told that Bellevue would have to spend little cash to provide the borough’s matching shares for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) funds awarded for the first two of three projected phases of skate plaza construction. Council had been told that the borough’s own labor could be counted toward the matching shares.

Hale told council members that only the DCNR grant allows for in-kind services to count toward the matching share.

Bellevue’s share of the first phase cost originally was projected at $25,000. Council member Jane Braunlich pointed out a Phase I plan document that included the parking lot expansion in the skate plaza project.

Hale, however, said that while the work is being required by Allegheny County, it, in fact, will have to be paid for entirely by the borough.

Council members objected to the fact that motions appeared on Tuesday’s meeting agenda to authorize the work and expenditure, but they had never been submitted to any council
committee. Hale said that the motions were a result of a meeting held the prior Wednesday, the day after council’s committee met,and were actions recommended by the borough engineer and the Quaker valley Council of Governments, which administers CDBG funds. She said that a memo explaining the situation had been sent to council members on Friday, but several were unaware of the material.

“There’s a communication issue that I have a problem with here,” said Susan Viscusi.

Braunlich said that several street repair projects had been left on the drawing board this year because there was not enough money to fund them, only to find out that an unexpected $21,000 was going to the skate plaza.

“We’re going to take away from our roads for a skate plaza,” agreed council member Linda Woshner.

The motion to move ahead with the project was defeated in a 5-3 vote, with Braunlich, Woshner, Susan Viscusi, Jim Viscusi and Mark Panichella opposed. Voting in favor were David Gillingham Jr., Mark Helbling and council president Kathy Coder.

Council approved a motion by Braunlich to address the issue at the regular council meeting this month after more information is obtained.

Council also is expected to address a request to hold another fund-raiser for the skate plaza. The borough already is planning an event in October to raise some of the matching funds needed, but local skateboard business owner Brian Buck and Enjoy Bellevue’s Michele Smith have proposed partnering for another event about two weeks before. The new event would involve skateboard demonstrations and competitions. Smith also asked that Enjoy Bellevue be named the official concession for that date in Bayne Park so that local businesses -- primarily restaurants -- could be allowed to set up in the park to sell refreshments. They would donate a portion of their profits to the skate plaza, Smith said.

Officials, however, were not convinced the timing was right.

“There’s only ‘X’ number of dollars to go around,” noted DAS Doug Sample, who said that the earlier event might take away from the already planned “Artober” event. They suggested incorporating the skateboard aspect into the October event, or even into the fall festival held after the Halloween parade.

Smith and Buck were asked to work with the committee already formed to raise funds for the skate plaza.

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