Last updated: April 07. 2014 11:29PM - 2644 Views
By - jandes@civitasmedia.com

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Vincent Cotrone has resigned from Luzerne County’s Recreation Advisory Board, saying county officials are not responding to the board’s suggestions and input.

“I no longer wish to feel frustrated, waiting for answers about the recommendations we have provided,” Cotrone wrote Monday in a resignation letter to the board.

Cotrone, an urban forester with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, said he “can do more for recreation” devoting his time and energy to other programs he’s actively promoted, including RiverFest, an annual festival held in June at Nesbitt Park that attracts more than 5,000 people.

The board, created by County Council under home rule, has been pressing for a say in how the county spends its $260,000 to $270,000 in annual recreation funding from the natural gas industry.

County Manager Robert Lawton kept the funds segregated in this year’s budget and said he will consider input on how the money should be spent. However, Lawton publicly noted the advisory board does not have authority over the money, saying it’s “not their war chest.”

Lawton’s comment came during a council committee discussion last month about the advisory board’s request to use some of the funding to reactivate the River Common fountain at least one day per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Some council members expressed concerns about liability and supervision when the fountain is in use, and Lawton said he would tally all costs associated with the fountain before seeking council’s recommendation.

Advisory board members also have raised the possibility of using some natural gas funds as a local match to obtain grants for trails and other projects.

In his letter, Cotrone, of Kingston, said he had hoped county officials would use the natural gas funding to advance recreation or help municipalities and nonprofits provide recreational opportunities.

He also hoped county officials “would see the connection that recreation has to qualify of life and the economic role it plays in attracting tourist dollars and new businesses and residents.”

“I am sorry to say, that I no longer have those hopes, and I am not sure what will bring about the intended use of those funds,” he wrote.

Phil Russo, advisory board chairman, told Cotrone in a written reply that he and other board members share his frustration.

“I thank you for making a stand, and I believe that your commitment to recreation and its access by the residents of our county will continue unabated. I thank you for your service,” Russo wrote.

Advisory board members are not paid, and Cotrone’s expertise and experience was an asset, Russo wrote.

“You can count on the fact that the remaining members of the board will miss you and pledge to do our best to raise awareness of the value of recreation and to constantly remind county government that it is a responsibility that must be addressed,” Russo wrote.

The county owns four recreational sites: Moon Lake Park in Plymouth Township, the Seven Tubs Nature Area off state Route 115 in Plains Township, the Forty Fort Recreational Complex and the River Common along the Susquehanna River in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

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