HAWLEY - Hawley Council approved partial payment from a DCNR grant for the tennis/ pickle ball court project, but it was conditional on knowing how this will affect future uses of Bingham Park.

HAWLEY - Hawley Council approved partial payment from a DCNR grant for the tennis/ pickle ball court project, but it was conditional on knowing how this will affect future uses of Bingham Park.
The discussion ensued at the July 10th Council meeting, after a presentation about the dual projects in the northwest corner of the park, nearest the corner with Main Avenue and Hudson Street: reconstruction of the present tennis courts and the neighboring softball field.
It came up at the meeting that certain deed restrictions come with the funding for the tennis project, that speaks of restricting non-recreation use of the site. Council needed to know to what extent this applies and to confirm if exceptions can be granted. The park is frequently the place for activities not related to recreation in the same sense as sports or athletics, such as the farmer’s market, arts and crafts fairs and the new this year: the free summer lunch program for children.
Borough Solicitor Robert Bernathy was tasked with researching the matter and reporting back to Council with his findings.

$70,000 grant

Joseph Adams and James Shook, representing the group of local citizens and civic leaders that proposed and are helping to coordinate the comprehensive upgrade of Bingham Park, brought an update and requests before Council in July. The group made the proposal in 2017, which was ultimately approved by Council in March 2018. Shook also volunteers with the Borough Parks & Recreation Commission.
The tennis upgrade also involves installation of a new amenity, a pickle ball court. The project is partly funded through a $70,000 grant from the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR).
Council was asked to vote on a partial payment request of $35,000 so the project can begin, once a contractor is secured. Adams said that they would be ready to go to bid on August 1, 2019, and hopefully be able to finish the project by this fall. Lake Region Community Dock Foundation, overseen by Shook, is contributing $5,000 for the match required for the first half of the DCNR grant.

Sticking point

The sticking point came with information about the DCNR grant, which is funneled from the Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF) from the National Park Service. Council member Michele Rojas reported that this funding source comes with restrictions regarding non-recreation use of the site,
Previous LWCF-funded sites were not required to record a deed clause noting this restriction. The language that would have to be recorded in the deed of the previous LWCF-funded site, says in part, “This property, or any portion of it, may not be converted to purposes other than those authorized under the Act for property acquired and/or developed with Department funds."
Solicitor Bernathy advised that approval could be given cognitional on his review of the deed restrictions and whether there may be exceptions. He said he would seek clarification. Councilman Mike Dougherty said this should be done quickly, as the outcome would have a factor in the way they voted.
Council unanimously approved the partial payment from the DCNR grant, pending clarification from the solicitor.

Softball field memo

Adams also discussed the plan to rebuild the softball field nearest the tennis courts, which is being partially funded by the Wallenpaupack Area School District which is in need of a third softball field.  
Grant funding had been received for a major upgrade to the softball field on the other side by Park Place, but fell far short of what was required. Adams asked if it was all right to use those funds instead, for the upgrade of the field by the tennis courts, with help from the school district.
The new softball field will be remade with a dirt infield and have a new back stop, as well as dugouts. The project will cost approximately $120,000.
Bernathy stressed that the borough needs to be involved in the bidding process to assure that there is compliance with the contract provisions. For that reason, the bidding specifications need to be forwarded to the solicitor for confirmation.
Shook stated that another advantage of switching the project to the field by the tennis courts is for “aesthetics.” While this is just part of the long-range renovations planned for the park, this corner is the first area that people see as they come into town (from the direction of Honesdale).
Council Vice-president Elaine Herzog said it was fine that the school district would have priority in use of the field, but there should be a recorded memo of understanding for future councils. President Ann Monaghan agreed.
Adams stated that this is a “great start” for the park improvement plan, with the raising of approximately $200,000 for these two projects.