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State College Borough Council Tentatively OKs Reduced Discovery Space Funding

by on June 06, 2011 11:15 PM

State College Borough Council on Monday approved a four-year capital improvement plan – a spending guideline through 2016 that commits no money until a final annual budget is adopted each December – that would reduce the proposed contribution to the Discovery Space children's museum and eliminate, for now, a potentially $2 million-saving energy reduction project.

Council also directed borough staff to draft a proposal that would grant permission for a new CVS pharmacy, which would offer drive-up service, at the University Avenue and Atherton Street site currently occupied by the Ponderosa Restaurant, although approval of that measure, scheduled for consideration at council's June 20 meeting, also is not assured.

In one action that was finalized Monday, council gave its assent to the 2011-2012 Centre Area Transportation Authority budget, to which State College's contribution is $81,454.

Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania, which was represented Monday by director Art Heim, originally sought $50,000 for each of the next three years from State College, which had purchased the former Verizon building at 224 S. Allen St. to house the museum. That facility was found by museum officials to be too large, however, and Discovery Space is tentatively scheduled to open on the first floor of 112 W. Foster St. on the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts Children's Day in July.

Thanks to a local tourism grant and other promising fundraising possibilities, Discovery Space officials reduced their request. Council lowered it further.

Councilman Tom Daubert suggested that the borough provide what he called "a modest start-up grant" of $25,000.

"This is in investment in the community," council President Ron Filippelli said in disagreement. "We spent money, much more money, for the (Schlow Centre Region) library, which I think was warranted. We spent money on the State Theatre, which I think was a wise investment. This is a similar category, although I do not think it rises to that level. It's a much smaller project."

In the end, council – after defeating Daubert's recommendation – decided on the one-time $50,000 grant, holding open the possibility of more money later depending on the success and need of the museum.

Council defeated – although it did not eliminate completely – the energy-savings proposal. Borough manager Tom Fontaine said the staff sought its inclusion in the capital plan to justify spending time working on developing the project. A company with a national reputation guarantees that the borough would save enough to cover the debt service on the project it is helping to initiate or the firm would make up the difference, Fontaine explained. Council seemed to shoot the idea down, at least temporarily, because it did not have enough information on something that is still in the very preliminary stages to pass judgment.

Included in the borough's 2012-2016 Capital Improvement Plan, however is $475,000 to expand the downtown public surveillance system from three cameras to as many as 14 and adding more cameras in the municipal building; and $60,000 for license-plate-recognition software that would allow parking-enforcement officials to identify and immobilize or "boot" the vehicles of scofflaws.

Neither measure was commented on Monday.

Council members did discuss – and seemed amendable to – however, to the CVS pharmacy project, which would require special approval due to its classification as a motor-vehicle-oriented business because of the drive-up window included in the plan.

Representatives of CVS's contracted legal and engineering firms testified during a public hearing as part of Monday's council meeting that modified plans for the pharmacy meet the recommendations made by the borough's Design Review Board regarding a rain garden (or bio-retention facility) for stormwater runoff and the riparian buffer to the adjacent Slab Cabin Run.

Council could grant final approval of the plan or ultimately reject it later this month.

Earlier coverage

Rich Kerstetter is managing editor of Follow him on Twitter at or get news updates via Facebook at Rich can be reached at [email protected] or at (814) 238-6201 Ext. 135.
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