Supervisors approve open space money for park improvements
Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 11:06 am | Updated: 2:40 pm, Mon Sep 2, 2013.
By Chris English Staff Writer
Source: “Supervisors approve open space money for park improvements.” Bucks County Courier Times. Friday. 30 October. 2013. ‹http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/local/supervisors-approve-open-space-money-for-park-improvements/article_b3ae612b-910e-5f8e-bc4a-03f369466602.html›
It took an extended round of arguments and a narrow 3-2 vote from the township supervisors, but Northampton will use its remaining $431,154 from the Bucks County Open Space Bond for improvements at the Civic Center recreational complex on Route 332.
The plan is to use some of the money to match a $250,000 grant the township hopes to get from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. However, the open space money will be spent at the Civic Center even if the grant doesn’t come through, township officials indicated.
Democratic supervisors Kimberly Rose, Frank Rothermel and James Cunningham voted to approve the use of the money at Wednesday night’s meeting while Republicans George Komelasky and Eileen Silver voted no.
Komelasky said the township should be using the open space money to buy property to preserve as open space, not on park improvements, though he agreed they were needed.
“We’ve had a list for years of properties that could be available for open space,” he said. “We should take another look at those properties and see if anything can be done. Our open space options are not limited to the point where we have no other choice but to spend the money on something like this. Those improvements should be done, but they shouldn’t come on the back of open space money. That is not what the citizens of Bucks County intended.”
County voters approved a $26 million open space bond in 2007. Northampton’s share was $1,020,604 and $431,154 is left.
Former township Supervisor Arthur Friedman agreed with Komelasky.
“If there is open space to be bought, we should use open space funds to buy it,” said Friedman.
But the three Democratic supervisors and other residents argued the list of available properties has existed for years and there has been no success in working out deals to acquire any of them for open space.
Also, Cunningham said the township has a letter from the county open space board saying it was permissible to spend the money on recreational improvements.
The improvements are sorely needed and there is no better use for the available open space money, said township resident Bill O’Neill.
“Northampton has plenty of open space,” he said. “We have lots of parkland and reclaimed farmland. If you fly over Northampton in a plane, you can see it’s not Philadelphia. It’s green.”
The township’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board recommended using the open space money for the improvements. The Civic Center has not had any substantial improvement since it was constructed in 1977, Parks and Recreation Director Nancy Opalka has said.
The long-range plan is to do a total of about $3.23 million worth of work at the complex in three phases, township officials have said.
The open space money would be spent on the first phase, which is estimated to cost $776,600 and would include 100 more parking spaces, a new entrance-exit to the complex, new lights for baseball/softball fields, repairs to the tennis and basketball courts and other items.