By Lee Murray
Several residents voiced their support for a proposal submitted by Sustainable Girard 2023, a coalition of residents formed to promote environmental improvements in the city, to reopen Girard’s upper lake for public use.
The proposal, which was addressed during Monday’s council meeting, sets out a two-phase plan for refurbishing and reopening the lake as soon as the end of this summer.
“We want [the city] to allow us to enter that property with a volunteer committee,” said Andrea Peduzzi of Shelby Road, speaking before the meeting. “We are willing to bulldoze and brush-hog and clean and put blood, sweat and tears into it.”
Mayor James Melfi said that reopening the lake that soon is unlikely because of financial constraints since escaping a decade of fiscal emergency.
The city’s priority is paying for core services, such as the police and fire departments, he added.
Melfi said public safety is an issue, too, and that insurance for volunteers could not be guaranteed because of natural hazards, the lake’s depth and a spillway that has no barrier.
The plan enumerates the steps that Sustainable Girard says should be taken to begin the process of opening the lakes, such as using a citizen workforce for the initial cleanup and preparing a budget and exploring “commercial ventures to make the upkeep of the lakes a self-sustainable venture.”
Of the 43 people present, only five chose to speak about the proposal.
Among them was Pete Condon, troop committee secretary of Boy Scout Troop 40 in Girard, who said area Scout troops would be happy to have a campground so close.
Kathy Kortes of Prospect Street said reopening the lake would give local kids something to do, and could help curb crime in the city.
Melfi said while he encourages citizen participation in the discussion, the city is not in a financial position to consider opening the lakes for public use.
“I don’t want to discourage the public; this is their city, not mine,” Melfi said.
“But we’re 13 months out of fiscal emergency, and we need to make sure our essential services are sound. Let’s pay our bills, keep our budget in check ... and revisit this sometime in the future.”
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