By Al Lowe
Contributing Writer 

Rep. Wheatley talks with small group about the state of the So. Pgh. Hilltop


October 2, 2007

Judy Hackel, of the Allentown Community Development Corp., said she thinks she telephones the Zone Three police station to notify them of problems more than any other local resident does.

Mrs. Hackel was one of a dozen residents who expressed concern about safety and other issues at a two-hour Sept. 27 meeting sponsored by State Rep. Jake Wheatley and held at the Warrington Recreation Center.

"I try to do this every year, reconnect with the community, find out how we can do things better and how we can partner and get things done," Rep. Wheatley said.

There was no formal agenda. He sat in front of the group, answered questions and had conversations with residents about issues.

"You've given me a lot to chew on," he said at the meeting's conclusion. "Empowering you to move to change your community looks like the best thing we can do."

He noted five main issues discussed that night. Those were: safer streets, a cleaner area, structure for recreation programs, improvements for the local swimming pool and the need for an "umbrella" organization to represent the Hilltop towns and to accomplish goals.

District Three city council candidate Bruce Kraus, Judy Dyda, South Side Local Development Company's manager of community development, and others favored converting the Warrington Center pool into a water park.

"It's not that expensive to do. You've got the structure. Add sprinklers and fountains," Ms. Dyda said.

"Let's definitely explore it," Rep. Wheatley said.

One resident opposed the idea and anticipated complaints, even an "uproar," about "Why did we just get sprinklers?" He said residents "were used to getting the lower end of everything," compared to other city neighborhoods.

Another issue discussed was how much nonprofits should contribute to the community to keep their nonprofit status. "I'm not going to kid anybody. There's a huge fight going on about that. A lot of nonprofits make a lot of money. It is not going to change overnight. People are looking at that," Rep. Wheatley said.

Apathy on the Hilltop was another issue. "People are not going to get involved until they see real change," Mr. Kraus said. "They want to be on a winning team."

"I have been fighting for ‘clean and safe,'" Mrs. Hackel said. She mentioned contacting the police about prostitution occurring in Allentown at 7 a.m.

"It happened four years ago. It hasn't changed. That's the level of frustration we're feeling," Mr. Kraus said.

Another resident suggested an organization representing the Hilltop could pull resources together. "This apathy has got to change."

Rep. Wheatley said such an organization could impact the other problems mentioned.

An employee at the Hilltop Community Health Care Center said she appreciated seeing vacant lots cleared and "would like to see more."

Rep. Wheatley said he expected to work well with Mr. Kraus if he is elected on such problems. "In the past that has not always been the case," he said.


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