Tyrone fields proposals

Residents, council members offer ideas

TYRONE — Community enrichment payments from wind turbines operating on Tyrone borough land generate about $120,000 a year, and, with little money withdrawn since payments began in 2011, about $912,000 has accumulated.

At the behest of Borough Manager Ardean Latchford, council on Thursday entertained suggestions for projects that could be funded with the money, so — as Latchford’s brother, Mayor Bill Latchford said — it doesn’t just “sit there.”

A host of residents and council members proposed ideas — most of which revolved around parks and recreation, while skewing toward the benefit of young people.

Councilman Terry Richardson again proposed converting the 2-acre vacant lot where Lincoln Elementary School once stood into a park. Others piggybacked onto his notion.

He suggested a walking path, a basketball court, benches and picnic tables.

The ground between Lincoln and Cameron avenues at 13th Street is centrally located, with plenty of parking, Richardson said.

Borough workers could create the walking path, and Scouts could install benches and tables for an Eagle Scout project, to save money, he said.

The ground is owned by S&A Homes, which obtained it in 1999, when Tyrone consolidated its elementary schools. The company planned to turn the building into senior housing, but that fell through due to economic factors, and the firm razed the building in 2008.

The ground was appraised for $65,000 a decade ago, Ardean Latchford said.

But he might be able to get it for free, the manager said.

As he understands it, a previous offer to turn it over for nothing was contingent on the borough using it only for community enhancement — not for business development, Richardson said.

The Lincoln tract would be a good place to locate two enhancements suggested by others at the meeting, Richardson said.

One of those is the portable skatepark proposed by the mayor. It would cost about $4,400 — a pittance compared to the $150,000 concrete structure he’d first proposed years ago, the mayor said.

The other enhancement that Richardson said would be a good fit for Lincoln is a stylized statue of a K-9 military dog, as proposed by Katelyn Richards, who has been trying for years to raise the money for it. She has accumulated $5,000 so far and needs $2,000 more — which she hasn’t been able to manage, despite various strategies.

Mike Whitby and John Russell of the Tyrone Youth Athletic Association asked for $60,000 to refurbish Ferner Field at Second Street and Park Avenue. There are three playing surfaces there — one for Little League, one for T-ball and one that until recently was for teener baseball. The teener group now plays at the high school, so the association wants to create another Little League venue, with a football field within the confines of the outfield. The football field is needed because the school district is nudging the football league away from the school complex due to the increasing demand for soccer, said Russell, whose group has taken responsibility for virtually all non-school, mainstream sports for young people in town, while investing $60,000 of its leaders’ money into repurposing a vacant downtown building for wrestling and other activities. Generally, youth sports in Tyrone need more venues, said Whitby, a former Navy SEAL who argued that the opportunities they will provide are crucial for molding young people into productive citizens.

Ronnie Garbinsky, president of the 2-year-old Tyrone Sports Association, asked for a letter of commitment for the borough to match a grant the organization will seek from the state for a $72,000 renovation of the basketball courts at Reservoir Park. The fence is loose and too close to the court, the lighting is poor, the surface is deteriorated, the padding is inadequate and the bleachers are decrepit, according to Garbinsky and another advocate for the project.

Penny Brunner, founder of the Smiles for Miles Foundation, which advocates for disabled people, suggested construction of a trail with exercise stations at Reservoir Park, construction of a climbing wall somewhere in town and installation of “sensory panels” downtown to capture the interest of disabled people, including those with autism.

Ardean Latchford advocated for enhancements at the railroad station, including a railfan observation platform that is already underway, widening of Reservoir Drive and improvements to the parking lots next to the borough building — including elimination of an island — along with renovations that could reopen the Ninth Street pedestrian bridge. Council obliged the manager on the bridge project by authorizing him to apply to the Department of Community and Economic Development for $250,000 — money that if obtained, the borough would need to match with $105,000 — or 30 percent.

Russell, whose business interests have a national scope, but who has been buying and renovating property downtown for the “back office” functions of his dozen enterprises, asked for more parking spaces, so he can continue to create jobs.

The lack of parking is his “only limitation,” he said.

Borough officials discussed the possibility of creating spaces near the VFW, close to where the manager wants to create an accessible fishing spot along the Little Juniata River.

Ron Johnson suggested recruiting businesses in town to install Christmas lights between Thanks­giving and the holidays at Reservoir Park.

Council now needs to decide which projects to fund, the mayor indicated.

“We wanted to learn what the community had in mind,” he said. “This gave us a good footing.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.