Pitcher Park Foundation has requested a $40,000 reimbursement from Dormont Borough for costs the group incurred before the Pitcher Park Skate Park proposal was rejected.
At Monday’s Dormont Council meeting, council President Bill McCartney said Pitcher Park Foundation contacted the borough in December requesting the reimbursement. The matter was discussed in executive sessions in January and February.
“Many of us on council thought maybe it was the right thing to do to reimburse them for some of the work they had done that benefited the borough, particularly on the tennis courts,” McCartney said. “But that was not unanimous.”
After reviewing the request with borough manager Jeff Naftal to determine what could be reimbursed, the borough offered the foundation a reimbursement of $7,500. The foundation rejected the offer.
McCartney said council directed Naftal, during the executive session prior to Monday’s public meeting, to contact Pitcher Park Foundation, and notify the organization that this was their best and last offer.
But on Tuesday afternoon, foundation president Mary Pitcher said she had not heard from the borough. She said Pitcher Park Foundation countered the borough’s offer by requesting $30,000 instead, but had not received a response.
The costs incurred by Pitcher Park Foundation are based on requirements laid out in a Memorandum of Understanding, which stated various tasks the foundation must—and did—complete, related to the Pitcher Park project. Pitcher, former borough solicitor Deron Gabriel, former borough manager Gino Rizza, and former council President Kim Lusardi signed the document.
But the MOU was ruled invalid.
Here’s the time line. Click the highlighted links for more information:
- In 2010, Dormont Council approved a motion to develop a multi-use park in Dormont Park.
- The MOU was created and signed in 2011. Although some members of council signed the document, other members were not aware of the agreement, and it was never discussed in a public meeting.**
- In December 2011, McCartney requested and received a copy of the MOU from Rizza. The document was then publically discussed. The document is available in this article.
- Gabriel, who signed the MOU, wrote a legal opinion in February 2012 stating that the MOU was not a legally binding contract.
- In April 2012, Dormont Council voted against the Pitcher Park project.
“We proceeded with all good intentions,” Pitcher said. “We went and got three different designs, as we were instructed by council, to the tune of $5,000. We had ] come talk at a Property, Supplies and Planning meeting, as instructed, and that was another $5,000. There was the tennis court enrichment. So many other things. Everything we did was reliant upon the MOU to build the skate park in Dormont.”
Pitcher said the amount Pitcher Park Foundation put into the project exceeded $40,000, although on Tuesday afternoon she was not able to provide Dormont-Brookline Patch with an exact amount. She said she does have documentation of all costs the foundation incurred related to the project.
Pitcher Park has since found a home in Carnegie. Pitcher said the organization has received financial support from the Tony Hawk Foundation for the project, and expects construction to start this spring.
“The mayor of Carnegie and every council person, the work department and the people of Carnegie in general have been extremely supportive,” Pitcher said. “They just have been wonderful. It wasn’t right what Dormont did. It absolutely wasn’t right. We’re just moving forward in a positive manner.”
**Editor's note (Feb. 8): Meeting minutes from the August 2011 council meeting indicate that a resident asked about a written agreement between the borough and Pitcher Park. Based on those minutes, such a written agreement was not discussed by council members at this meeting. Mary Pitcher told Dormont-Brookline Patch that the MOU was discussed at other public meetings; however, current council members have said publicly that they were unaware of the document's existence until Dec. 2011.