North Huntingdon considers allowing alcohol in township parks

North Huntingdon may allow people who rent a pavilion at one of the township’s parks the opportunity to serve beer and wine if they pay for an alcohol permit and provide proof of liability insurance so the township avoids any legal problems if trouble occurs.

The township administration will draft a proposed ordinance that would set the criteria for obtaining a permit and the requirements those seeking a permit must follow, said Jeff Silka, township manager. The board of commissioners would have to approve an ordinance allowing alcohol in the parks.

Dan Miller, township parks and recreation director, could not be reached for comment.

Commissioner Brian Blasko, who proposed selling the permits as a way of generating new revenue for the parks department, said neighboring municipalities permit alcohol usage in their parks. Some charge a fee for the permit and others do not, Blasko said.

Murrysville’s permit to provide alcohol at some of its facilities costs $50, Silka said. Murrysville also requires those seeking a permit to make a $350 security deposit for providing alcohol at its Community Center and Townsend and Sardis parks.

Jim Morrison, Murrysville’s chief administrator, said the policy has been in effect for about five or six years.

“We’ve never had any issue with it,” Morrison said.

Alcohol initially was permitted only in Townsend Park, then was expanded to include Sardis Park and Murrysville Community Park, Morrison said.

No glass containers that hold alcohol — beer bottles and wine bottles — would be permitted, nor would hard liquor, Silka said.

Murrysville’s policy prohibits providing alcohol at graduations parties.

The municipality can withhold all or part of the security deposit for any violation or if the police chief or public works director or recreation director recommends it. The security deposit could be used for any clean-up, if the pavilion is not left as it had been when it was rented.

“It has teeth, but it’s not a deterrent,” Silka said.

Blasko said he believes alcohol should be limited to an area around the pavilion and no drinking should be permitted at the playgrounds, where youngsters might gather.

Commissioner Jason Atwood said he was concerned that it would bring on more responsibility for township police to patrol the parks.

“I feel, once alcohol gets introduced in a setting, things go downhill,” Atwood said, adding that he believes it could make the parks unsafe for children.

Atwood questioned whether someone seeking an alcohol permit should have at least a certain amount of liability insurance.

With a hold harmless policy, Commissioner Ronald Zona said if a problem occurs with someone consuming alcohol at the park, “that’s on them (permit holder).”

“If they don’t have enough liability (insurance), that’s on them,” said Commissioner Zachary Haigis.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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