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COG approves 2017 budget, discusses Whitehall park

Whitehall Road Regional Park was discussed prior to the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum approving its 2017 budget.
Whitehall Road Regional Park was discussed prior to the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum approving its 2017 budget. Centre Daily Times, file

The Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum approved the 2017 COG budget at its monthly meeting on Monday at the Boalsburg Fire Hall.

With the approval, the general forum referred the budget to the municipalities — College, Ferguson, Halfmoon, Harris and Patton townships and State College borough — for adoption by Dec. 31.

The total COG budget for 2017 is $24,296,938, with municipal contributions accounting for $6,605,486.

Before approval of the budget, Ferguson Township Supervisor Laura Dininni proposed an amendment. She suggested that the Whitehall Road Regional Park line item be removed from the 2017 budget.

In the 2017 budget, $2.5 million is proposed to begin Phase I construction of the regional park.

Though the amendment ultimately failed, it generated significant discussion.

State College borough Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said she didn’t think the general forum needed to remove the park from the budget, calling it “overkill.”

It would be difficult to pull the park out of the budget because the municipalities are committed to a loan, said Jim Steff, executive director of COG.

He added that at the January general forum meeting, staff would like to present schematic options for the various possibilities of what the park could include.

Elliot Abrams, Patton Township board chairman, asked his fellow elected officials how many of their constituents have complained about having too many parks.

Ferguson Township Supervisor Peter Buckland said he has had people express their concerns to him about the park and its cost.

Dininni added that she’s received feedback that Oak Hall Regional Park and John Hess Softball Field Complex are not living up to people’s expectations.

The Whitehall Road Regional Park is a 100-acre parcel located in Ferguson Township, according to a report from COG. The park lands were acquired in two parts — 75 acres in 2006 and 25 acres in 2011.

In 2011, a $7.57 million loan was borrowed to fund the development of Oak Hall and Whitehall regional parks, according to the report. The funds were supposed to be drawn in July 2013, however, due to delays the loan has been renegotiated/amended four times. The new date for the funds to be drawn is June 1.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

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