At next month’s Latrobe City Council meeting, officials will consider approving an ordinance to amend a portion of the city’s code pertaining to rules and regulations at city parks.
At Monday’s agenda prep session, city officials discussed several proposed changes which would be enforced by the Latrobe Police Department and Latrobe-GLSD Parks & Recreation staff.
Council member Jim Kelley expressed concern over some of the proposed changes, including one which would prohibit loitering at city parks.
The proposed no-loitering rule states that the “public must be engaged in recreational activities” while at city parks so as not to be considered loitering.
Kelley asked Latrobe-GLSD Parks & Recreation Director Craig Shevchik if the rule would apply to elderly residents who might be “sitting on a park bench, talking with each other.” He then provided the same scenario, but with teenagers as the party in question.
Shevchik noted that age is not a factor when it comes to enforcing the proposed no-loitering rule, as long as residents are engaging in a recreational activity.
“This is how I would define (loitering): A group of people that are just sitting around doing nothing productive in a setting,” Shevchik said, referring to city parks. “...They are doing nothing recreational. They are not using the facilities correctly.”
Such activity, Shevchik says, may include sitting or laying on top of park benches, or congregating on slides to hinder others from using them.
“People who are using the park the way it’s supposed to be used feel intimidated, feel threatened, because of their presence — that’s loitering,” Shevchik said.
Kelley took issue with Shevchik’s definition, stating, “By your definition ... a group of 80-year-old people hanging around and not doing anything that would be a typical recreational activity could be deemed loitering,” Kelley said.
To which Shevchik responded: “If they are having a picnic, they are not loitering. If they are talking, playing cards, they are not loitering.”
Solicitor John Greiner noted that many of the rules discussed at Monday’s meeting — including ones prohibiting open fires, hunting, vaping or smoking, and profanity, among others — are already included in the current ordinance. He also added that rules involving more serious violations are currently covered under the disorderly conduct statute in the city’s crimes code.
“If you have somebody there who is causing problems, it’s really beyond loitering; it’s inappropriate behavior,” Greiner said. “Whether it be profanity, acting disrespectfully to other members of the public, preventing other people from enjoying the park — those are all things that police officers, if they had to respond right now, can address with the disorderly conduct statute.”
Kelley also expressed concern with the enforcement of park rules, suggesting that Latrobe-GLSD staff should be responsible for enforcing them during the daytime.
“Police should be enforcing those rules that are found in the crimes code,” he said. “I don’t know that you want to be drawn down when people are vaping. I would like to see the use of the police limited to enforcing those rules that would otherwise be part of the crime code.”
Latrobe Police Chief John Sleasman said, “We have no problem going down and handling 911 calls down there,” adding that he agrees Latrobe-GLSD staff should be able to enforce the rules, as well.
The proposed ordinance adds that the Latrobe-GLSD commission holds the right to modify park rules and regulations. Greiner said that any changes to an ordinance would have to be approved by council at its monthly voting meeting.
Another rule change proposes a ban on feeding wildlife such as birds, geese or squirrels.
Shevchik said the Latrobe-GLSD commission will post some of the adopted rule changes on its website, in addition to posting new signage at city parks.
Also at the next council meeting, officials will consider approving a resolution to add regular permit parking passes at the top level of the city’s parking garage for a $15 monthly fee.
City manager Michael Gray said the top level, which has roughly 25 spots at a current rate of $26 per month, is “very sparsely used.”
“I think it’s going to help not only the business owners but other people that come (into the city),” Gray said.
At the Aug. 10 council meeting, officials will consider:
- Approving a transfer station agreement with Westmoreland County which involves where the city disposes its municipal waste. Gray says the city currently operates under the state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) approved plans. “This is just an agreement with the county advising the county that we are going to be following DEP’s recommendation,” Gray said;
- A motion authoring Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. Inc. to prepare an application for the 2021 Community Development Block Grant program. Gray noted that funds acquired through this grant could go toward reconstructing a handicapped-accessible ramp and steps at the Courtyard Plaza, near Spring Street;
- A motion authorizing the public works director to advertise for the 2020-23 snow removal proposals;
- An amendment to remove the Latrobe Parking Authority from an article of the city’s code;
- Appointing Jim Burica to the planning commission with his term expiring Jan. 31, 2021;
- Approving a winter traffic service agreement between the commonwealth and the City of Latrobe. Under the five-year agreement, the state will pay Latrobe for crews to maintain several state roads during winter months;
- Approving an ordinance for the use of a telecommunication device to attend meetings. Council discussed potentially upgrading the city’s technology for conducting virtual meetings. Officials will consider allowing council members to miss up to three in-person meetings, or to be excused for medical reasons;
- Appointing Ron Keslar to the position of sergeant in the Latrobe Police Department to replace Sgt. Nunzio Santo Columbo as he retires from the force;
- Approving the cooperation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for rehab of federal flood control work after a 2018 flood created erosion on Unity Run where it the meets Loyalhanna Creek;
- Approving the lowest bidder for the underpass rehabilitation project which will include sidewalk repairs, new lighting, and sandblasting and painting the steel structures beneath the city’s three railroad bridges.