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Pittsburgh News - August 18, 1999

Most approve of RAD decision

By Renee Cardelli

Some say spread the wealth, others say there's not enough to go around.

But the consensus was that the Regional Asset District can help pay the Civic Arena's debt without badly hurting other organizations that count on its money.

Joe Dugan, director of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland, said he doesn't have a problem with the Public Auditorium Authority's request.

"When people come into town, they spend money," Dugan said. "As a recipient of RAD money, I would like to see the people that come into Allegheny County for those games continue to come in."

The RAD was created by the state Legislature in 1993 to provide financing for parks, libraries, civic organizations and other entertainment attractions in Allegheny County.

The county's 1 percent RAD tax pays $3.2 million annually for improvements made to the Civic Arena, which is owned by the authority.

But some like Jayme Gardner, director of the Crafton Public Library, say the board shouldn't continue paying for the arena's debt.

"There's a limited amount of funds," Gardner said. "I question if they're going to save the arena or if it's good money after bad. The Penguins keep saying the time is plump for a new arena."

He said the Penguins are basically "playing blackmail with the city." Libraries, on the other hand, aren't going to close if they can't get funds because they provide a service to the community.

"In the great scheme of things, I think there's enough money to go around." Gardner said. "I think it will hurt but not in a dramatic way. I think just a small fraction of my RAD money will go to this."

Glenn Walsh, life trustee of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, said he's also concerned about the board funding the arena because he said there's only a limited amount of money.

Walsh said, if money becomes tight, he's afraid the board may push for library consolidations.

"Eventually it's going to have an impact on libraries and other cultural assets. It may not be next year, but somewhere down the road," Walsh said.

But Al Kamper, district coordinator for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh who also consults 49 other county libraries, does not foresee a problem with the arena funding.

He said the Carnegie Library is under a 10-year contract with the RAD board. "Unless anything dramatically changes, they'll continue to get that money," Kamper said. "The libraries are somewhat secured in what they would get."

Sara Radelet, assistant director of Mattress Factory Ltd., an art museum on the North Side, said she "has faith in what the board will do."

"I know that the board of directors of the Regional Asset District are very focused and always figure out a way to accommodate as many people as possible. If there is some chance this particular funding request would diminish what they give to others, they wouldn't go for it," Radelet said.

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