The deterioration of the library parking deck prompted the request for state help.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- A state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant of $625,000 will enable the city to double the size of the renovation project at Shenango Valley Community Library.
The city had borrowed $625,000 as part of a $2 million bond issue in September to cover the estimated cost of making major structural repairs to the two-level parking deck attached to the library at the corner of Sharpsville Avenue and East State Street.
The city also had applied for the state grant in April, however.
Mayor David O. Ryan said the city was told that its initial plan for a $625,000 application was too small and needed to cover a project of at least $1 million before the Pennsylvania governor's office would consider it for funding.
The decision was made to include improvements to the building itself that the city would have had to undertake within the next several years anyway, Ryan said, noting that boosted the total project cost to $1,250,000.
"There's an extensive amount of work needed. When it's done, it will be a brand new building," Ryan said.
With the state grant approval announced two weeks ago, Sharon will have sufficient funds to do the entire project, he said.
Learned about condition
The city learned in April 2002 that the upper level of the parking deck was in poor condition.
The 31-year-old concrete structure has been deteriorating for years, Ryan said, noting that years of road salt spread on the deck during winter street maintenance probably caused the bulk of the problem.
The city had applied a protective seal coat on the upper deck, which has no roof, at one time but it was gradually worn off by traffic and snow-plowing.
Concern about the deck safety prompted Ryan to impose a 5,000 pound-per-vehicle limit on use of the 41 parking spaces there in April.
He also banned parking along the retaining wall on the upper level where there are no designated parking spaces in an effort to prevent overloading.
If the city couldn't replace the deck, it would probably have to be closed completely in four or five years, Ryan said, noting that would require closing the lower level as well.
The renovation won't be a quick job.
Ryan said he doesn't know yet when the state funds will actually be released but it will take about six months after the funds are in hand to get the project started and another eight to 14 months to get it completed.
That's going to cause some serious long-term parking problems for the library and businesses in the area whose customers make use of the parking deck but it's something that has to be done, he said.
Ryan offered credit to a number of people who helped put the state application together and supported it at the state level.
Sen. Robert Robbins of Greenville, R-50th, was "the big catalyst in this," Ryan said.
State Rep. Michael Gruitza of Hermitage, D-7th, also supported the plan and Larry Reichard, executive director of Penn-Northwest Development Corp., Mercer County's lead economic development agency, aided finance director Michael Gasparich in putting the application together, Ryan said.
Ryan even had praise for the manager and assistant manager of nearby Hermitage, noting they brought an aide to Sen. Robbins to Sharon to hear about the project.
"That's what really got the ball rolling," Ryan said.