OC Council to move ahead with plan for whitewater park
By MICHAEL MOLITORIS

3/9/04

Special Thanks to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted

MAYOR ED SHARP SAYS THERE APPEARS TO BE MUCH ENTHUSIASM IN THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY FOR THE IDEA.

OIL CITY - Oil City Council gave formal approval Monday night to a plan that would seek funding to find out if a whitewater park could be built on a local waterway.

Council passed a resolution authorizing the city's community development office to apply for a $5,000 grant that would allow a Colorado-based water park planner to collect data on the Allegheny River and, probably, Oil Creek. Gary Lacy of Boulder, Colo., said it would take him four to six weeks to draft renderings of a proposed park somewhere in Oil City.

Councilwoman Sonja Hawkins first presented the idea to council members at last week's work session.

In conversations with other communities that have constructed similar parks, Hawkins said she found the tourist-luring effects of those facilities ultimately translates into generous cash flows for local economies.

It's not yet clear where the proposed kayak and canoe park would be located, and Hawkins said the timeline for completing the feasibility study would depend on when funding becomes available to complete it. The city is applying to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for the funds.

Mayor Ed Sharp said he has been surprised with the positive response to the idea - especially from the local business community.

"I've walked through the downtown and a lot of people thought this was a wonderful idea," Sharp said. "They've said the river is an asset to the area and it's underdeveloped. It's nice to see somebody doing something with the river - to see council taking the initiative."

If building such a park on the Allegheny or Oil Creek is possible, Sharp is hopeful it would spur more activity on the bike trail between Oil City and Franklin, spark more niche and specialty shops in the city and bring more foot traffic to the Arlington Hotel.

"Hopefully we'll see more people there," Sharp said.

EQUIPMENT PURCHASES OK'D

Council also agreed Monday night to spend nearly $70,000 to purchase fire and emergency management equipment for the city.

The monies being used are part of the city's 2003 Community Development Block Grant allotments.

The city received bids from two companies and took the lowest bids that each company offered.

City administrators will spend $52,899 with Mobile Communication Service Inc. to buy portable radios, emergency operations center mobile radios, mobile radios for public works officials, desktop controllers, vehicle radios and radio pagers.

Another $16,142 will be spent with Premier Safety and Service to buy gas meters and confined space rescue equipment for the city's fire department.

With the new equipment, each city police officer will have his or her own radio and the city's street department, fire and police workers will be able to communicate on multi-frequency radios.

CITY MANAGER GETS RAISE

City Manager Tom Rockovich received a 2 percent raise Monday night after council unanimously approved the measure.

The five-member panel also renewed the manager's contract for another year.

The $1,080 raise marks Rockovich's first increase in two years. Council considers the salary review each year, but because of a tight budget situation last year, non-union city employees - including Rockovich - opted not to take raises in 2003.

Rockovich now makes $55,080 annually and the raise is retroactive to Jan. 1.

"I'd like to thank council for your consideration," Rockovich said.

PLANNING COMMISSION VACANCY FILLED

Jason Bidish, a 22-year-old city resident, was appointed to a four-year term on the city's planning commission.

The Clarion University student had applied earlier this year for a seat on Oil City Council after Sharp was elected mayor, but he lost that bid to Neil McElwee. At the time, Sharp and other council members encouraged the business management and marketing major to apply for a seat on a city commission or board.

Bidish submitted his letter of interest last week and was surprised when he was appointed Monday.

"I just came here to see what was going on (tonight)," Bidish said, adding that he wanted to make sure his letter had been received.

"We found him to be energetic during the council process when Mr. McElwee was named," Rockovich said. "I feel he would be an asset to the commission because of his energy."

Bidish's appointment leaves one open seat on the city's zoning hearing board and two on the shade tree commission. The zoning position opened last week when longtime city worker and volunteer Julian "Tiny" Piercy died.