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Judging stand

Published June 30. 2011 05:02PM

The last time Lehighton Borough Council members talked about the old judging stand - salvaged from the former Lehighton Fairgrounds and standing deserted in the Lehighton Community Grove - they were contemplating either giving it away or demolishing it.

Not so fast, says a Jim Thorpe historian.

John Drury, head of a Jim Thorpe museum, has offered to help organize a committee of borough residents to renovate the stand and move it to the borough park.

Most of the council members were interested enough in the proposal that Drury will be invited to attend their next meeting on July 25 to discuss it further.

The bulky, octagonal stand, now faded with a rusting metal roof, had been used for most of the duration of the former Carbon County Fair in Lehighton. The fair lasted well over a century.

The stand has been sitting idle for nearly 20 years.

Treasurer Nicole Beckett said she talked to Drury and he is willing to lead the project, which would involve Lehighton volunteers, to save the judging stand. She said Drury feels the roof could be removed so the stand could be moved to the downtown park.

For years council had considered moving the stand to the downtown park, but noted that due to its height, it would be a major task since overhead wires would have to be disconnected for maneuvering the structure.

Drury is also willing to have a chain-link fence placed around the stand at the Community Grove while improvements are occurring, said Beckett.

Councilman Dale Traupman was concerned how long such improvements would take.

He also was a skeptic and an opponent of the project.

"I feel we should get rid of it," Traupman said of the stand. "I'm concerned we're going to move the eyesore from the Grove to the park."

Bird also was cautious about endorsing the project.

"Do they realize the cost?" he added.

Beckett said there is a grant which had been secured which can be used for the project.

Two council members interested in having the project done were Hunsicker and Darryl Arner. Beckett said neither Drury nor the Mauch Chunk Museum would receive any compensation for their assistance.

"I'm a pessimist about getting a group of people together" to voluntarily work on the project, Traupman said. "It's hard to find volunteers."

Arner said he has worked with Drury on other projects in the past, including the Mauch Chunk Opera House project.

"I know he's a go-getter," Arner said. "I feel we should sit down and talk with him."

Attorney James Nanovic, the borough solicitor, also suggested that if the council is interested, it should invite Drury to a meeting.

"We will invite him to our next meeting," Hunsicker agreed.

At last night's council meeting, the judging stand was just one of several topics discussed related to the park. Others were:

• Traupman said the owner of Castle Grill, Bridge Street, is offering to have the Chainsaw Chicks do a carving from a tree trunk in the borough park. The Chainsaw Chicks are widely known for their wood sculptures.

The one in the park would be an eagle with a flag. This would be at no cost to the borough.

The council agreed to let the Chainsaw Chicks engage in such a project.

• Traupman also reported that the Lehighton Downtown Initiative Committee has a company willing to refurbish the band shell in the upper park at no cost to the borough. He said Todd Zimmerman, president of the LDIC, will attend next month's meeting and present more details, including the identity of the firm.

• The council agreed to forfeit a $24,400 matching grant it was awarded to be used toward improvements in the downtown parks. It was noted the LDIC was also not interested in the grant, because of the matching funds needed. In addition, the money could only be used for planning purposes and not the actual work.

Council President Grant Hunsicker said the entire grant would likely go to an engineering firm and not actual park improvements.

"I don't want it," said Councilman John Bird regarding the grant.

• Traupman said the LDIC is hoping to purchase better security cameras for the park. He said there was a recent flower planting effort by the committee. Since then, many of the flowers were pulled out and tossed into the park fountain.

In other matters related to the downtown:

• On a request by Traupman, Mayor Donald Rehrig agreed to initiate some foot patrols by borough police in the downtown business district.

• The police department will secure crossing signs for pedestrians from PennDOT to be used in the downtown.

• Traupman asked that trash containers be placed in the downtown area. There was no response to this request.

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