The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


February 28, 2014

West Hills getting in shape | Recreational opportunities to abound

JOHNSTOWN — West Hills is going to copy from the East Hills – recreationally speaking, that is.

East Hills Recreation Commission may be used as an operating model by the yet-to-be-approved West Hills Recreation Commission Ltd.

The West Hills organization will replace the Westmont Hilltop Recreation Commission, which crumbled last year when Southmont Borough decided to withdraw its support.

But here’s where it gets a little confusing. Southmont is back in the fold, agreeing to work with Westmont Hilltop School District, Westmont Borough and Upper Yoder Township in the newly formed entity to bring recreational opportunities back to the West Hills.

“The former commission was a partnership between (the four governmental bodies), funded entirely by the taxpayers,” Robert Shahade, Upper Yoder’s solicitor, told our Randy Griffith. “Now the municipalities are giving the people the choice. That was the compromise to the dissolution of the commission.”

Instead of the participating governmental bodies appointing board members to the commission, it will be ruled by five volunteers.

We believe that is a good thing, because the volunteers wouldn’t necessarily be beholden to their governing municipality. In fact, the volunteers could come from anywhere.

The new commission will receive seed money from the current commission to get it on its feet, but it hopes to become financially independent through user fees, memberships and donations.

Westmont council President Don Hall II knows the new entity will face some challenges.

“It needs to be run like a business: You are paying for services and you are providing services,” he said. “I hope they are ready to start thinking like a business, as opposed to the situation they are getting out of now.”

Shahade believes the only way the new commission could fail is if the community does not rally behind it.

We hope it receives huge community support. The commission has two excellent venues – The Ridge in Upper Yoder Township and The Grove in Westmont – that offer a myriad of recreational opportunities. We would hate to see them sitting empty, gathering dust and growing weeds.

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