After Year of Controversy, Allentown to Hold Final Vote on ARPA Allocations for IronPigs, Da Vinci Center – The Morning Call

Allentown City Council will hold a final vote on U.S. bailout funding for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Da Vinci Science Center on Wednesday night.

The vote comes after nearly a year of controversy over the awards, with some members of the board and in Allentown believing they are showing unfair favoritism to the two top institutions.

The IronPigs have applied for $1.5 million from the city’s ARPA funds for COVID-19 safety upgrades at Coca-Cola Park. The IronPigs must make nearly $10 million in park improvements by April 2023 to continue the team’s affiliation with Major League Baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies.

IronPigs general manager Kurt Landes has repeatedly warned that the IronPigs could be forced out of Allentown if they can’t raise enough money for the renovations. Pennsylvania committed $2 million, Lehigh County $1.5 million, and Northampton County $200,000 for stadium upgrades. The IronPigs also pledged $1.5 million.

The Da Vinci Science Center has requested $1.5 million to install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as exhibits and programming for its new facility in downtown Allentown, which is due to open. slated for 2024. The Da Vinci Center has raised $64 million for the installation and needs $8. million more to fully develop the space.

The Council reduced the price offered by the Da Vinci Center to $1 million.

Members have balked at awarding the money since late 2021. Former Mayor Ray O’Connell offered to donate $1 million to the IronPigs and $2 million to the Science Center, but changed his plans after the rejection. some residents of Allentown and members of the city council.

The Board again announced a final decision on the IronPigs and Da Vinci in June. Council members Ce-Ce Gerlach, Natalie Santos, Ed Zucal and Candida Affa voted to delay spending indefinitely; Josh Siegel, Daryl Hendricks and Cynthia Mota voted against.

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Members who opposed the awards said they wanted more community input before the final vote.

The decision frustrated Mayor Matt Tuerk, who said the projects were ready to go and faced time constraints.

But Affa changed his stance in September, allowing a close 4-3 vote to speed up the awards. She said she ‘didn’t want to be the councilwoman who saw Coca Cola Park’ leave Allentown, which IronPigs executives have warned could happen if they can’t raise the funds by April .

Council members who oppose the awards believe that granting the money neglects the city’s obligation to use ARPA dollars to address issues such as poverty and homelessness. The city held a series of ARPA allocation hearings over the summer, but hasn’t approved any spending since late last year.

“I just don’t understand why these are the two items that, of all the money left over for ARPA, are the first two items we decide to allocate funds to,” Gerlach said at a meeting. in September. . “Not homeless people, not gun violence prevention, not affordable housing, not a youth center. Why these two objects?

Council members will hold a final vote on the awards Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Morning Call reporter Lindsay Weber can be reached at 610-820-6681 and [email protected].

James V. Hayes