After the demolition of the former First National Bank on Main Street began last weekend, the Slippery Rock Borough Council voted 4-2 in favor of accepting the lowest bid of $330,000 from McElroy Paving for the Gateway Project which will add more parking to the downtown area last Tuesday night, despite public disapproval at the meeting.
Before the discussion of the bid, those in attendance were able to speak to the council, with some opposing the approval of the bid including citizens, council members, and mayor-elect Jondavid Longo. Longo was one of the last to speak, and his words were not much different from those of the previous speakers.
“I don’t have quite a different message than everyone you just heard before you, but as mayor-elect I feel obliged to reiterate that message and carry the message of the voters,” Longo said. “I’m urging you to please halt with the unnecessary expedition, of this unnecessarily expensive project.”
A few citizens who spoke at the meeting mentioned how they and other property owners they knew had not even heard about this project until recently, but according to council president Regina Greenwald, this project has been in the works for three years.
“This is not a new project, this has been going on for three years,” Greenwald said as she addressed the crowd after everyone had finished speaking. “We don’t have a good way to communicate other than the fact that members on council have talked to a lot of people, who didn’t know those of you who are in here saying you may not be in favor of this, we also have hundreds and hundreds of people who are.”
The winning bid which was one of three includes 12 additional options or alternate bids such as adding benches, more landscaping, adding a clock, and a welcome sign to the main intersection in downtown Slippery Rock. The additional options were discussed at length in front of the public to deem whether they are necessary or not for the project, or whether to put off to a later date.
Items removed or pushed off Tuesday night include a seat wall, sprinkler system for landscaping, and the clock, which itself was going to cost upwards of $20,000. After the items were removed, the total bid was reduced to $274,714.20.
“I think there is more slashing to that price tag that could’ve been done,” Longo said. “Some of those opportunities to save the taxpayers and the borough some money was given up, and I think it was out of a desire to be as expeditious as possible before we take office here in January.”
On Monday, the day before the meeting, a letter was delivered to current council from Longo, incoming council members Gene Alison, Itzi Meztli, Russ Karl and current council member Royce Lorentz. The letter urged other current council members to hold off the final stages of the project until the new council members come into their terms starting in January.
“You can’t go around saying that you support the borough when it’s residents are not happy with some of your actions pertaining to this Gateway Park matter,” Meztli, an associate professor of English here at SRU and incoming council member said in his prepared statement last Tuesday night.
“It should be the new council who explores all our options as it pertains to the old bank site after it’s demolition,” Meztli added.