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Some council members have second thoughts on Lehighton Park renovation

Published April 21. 2010 05:00PM

Plans to improve the Lower Park in Lehighton's downtown are raising concerns for some members of Lehighton Borough Council.

One member suggested that the money that would be spent on the Col. Jacob Weiss Park be better used somewhere else in the borough. Another member feels the cost estimates are too vague to proceed with the project.

Councilman John Bird raised the subject and said he would like to see the money spent somewhere else other than the park improvements. Bird said he feels there must be "a less-expensive way to pretty-up the park."

He got support from recently appointed council member Dale Traupman who said there have been cost estimates recited for the project, but "How can we have estimated costs if we don't have the design, yet?"

Last fall the borough hired an architect to design improvements to the park, with grants anticipated to get the project completed. It was noted that initial cost estimates indicate the project to be at $600,000 to $700,000.

"It could be $1.5 million, for all we know," interjected councilman Scott Rehrig, who agreed with Traupman's assessment.

Borough Manager John Wagner said funding will come from the Transportation Enhancement Act. He said the borough will lose the funds if it doesn't proceed with the park project.

He said he plans to have more details on the project for next month's meeting of the council.

Traupman said that even with the grant, there will be an obligation for the borough to meet some of the costs. He said he would like to know what percentage of the costs the borough will have to pay for the project.

Rehrig said he will not consent to going along with the improvement project until all the information, including costs, is available.

Meanwhile, Lehighton Fire Chief Jack Kuller said a meeting is scheduled for Thursday with State Representative Keith McCall to determine the availability of state grants to be applied toward construction of a new fire station.

The project has an estimated cost of $4.5 million, with McCall indicating he will attempt to get $2.25 million of this amount in grant money. "He was asking for $2.25 million but doesn't know if it will be approved," said Council President Grant Hunsicker.

Three other projects involving grants were touched:

* The council authorized Wagner to make application for 55 percent funding from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Grant for two police cruisers.

* Wagner will also apply for a USDA grant to provide 55 percent funding for a Light and Power Department bucket truck.

* Wagner will make the final payment request for the grant which was obtained to renovate the Lehighton Municipal Swimming Pool last year.

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