July 25, 2008

Wilkins Community Center Will Have More Space, Programs

By Zandy Dudiak

If rainy days are ahead, officials in Wilkins won't mind.

Some inclement weather would give public works crews more time indoors working on the township's new multipurpose center.

The center will provide needed meeting and activity space and put the former Wilkins-Churchill Rescue One building back into service.

The adjacent municipal building on Peffer Road has a community room and small kitchen, but township activities have been drawing more people than can comfortably fit there. The Christmas party last year attracted 120 children and their parents.

"We were cramped for space," said township Commissioner Joe Costa, who is spearheading the project.

The recreation advisory board holds its Easter party at the Wilkins Elks and fall Pumpkin Patch event at Wilkins Primary School, but might move them to the township facility when completed.

Paul Vargo, assistant township manager and superintendent of public works, is credited with having the vision to reuse the building, vacated in 2004 after the ambulance service merged with Forest Hills/Chalfant Rescue 8 to form Woodland Hills Emergency Medical Service.

"We always needed a community center," Vargo said. "There's no place for seniors and kids."

The center can be used for recreational events, police training, weekly C.C. Mellor Library storytimes, civic and political organizations, and possibly a before- and after-school care program through the YMCA.

Rebecca Bradley, township manager, hopes to replicate the kind of senior citizen programming offered at the Turtle Creek center.

"If you don't have these activities, you don't have anything to draw people to these communities," said state Sen. Jay Costa, D- Forest Hills.

The building, which had a two-bay garage, meeting room and office space, has been gutted. Workers installed new wiring, plumbing, windows, doors and some drywall.

When completed, the center will offer a large community room, smaller meeting room, restrooms, large storage closets and an equipped kitchen with service windows so food can be served to both rooms. Bradley said the rental fee for the space might be in the $50 range.

The project is being funded through two state Department of Community and Economic Development grants for community revitalization totaling $120,000, obtained with the support of Costa and his brother, state Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins.

Original estimates for the project were about $240,000. By using the in-house crew, the cost will be halved.

"It's a good thing we have talented guys in our public works department," said Sylvia Martinelli, former commissioner and recreation advisory board member.

The township might seek additional grants to providing finishing touches on the interior and exterior.

Officials hope work on the center wraps up before the recreation council's Christmas party.

(c) 2008 Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.