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City Council and Mayor Kenney play nice as rec center ‘rebuild’ advances

Thursday, May 24, 2018

By Malcolm Burnley via Plan Philly


Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan to revamp public facilities throughout the city took another step forward this week, with key legislation passing favorably out of a City Council committee on Monday. The positive movement hasn’t, however,  fully ended an ongoing war of words between Kenney and dissenting council members who remain critical of the agreements that the mayor has struck with labor unions to diversify their ranks.

As he did last week, Kenney announced the latest progress at a press conference held at one of the city’s public facilities in dire need —  Olney Rec Center. The hulking North Philadelphia community hub will begin to receive renovations with $8 million the city has on hand to spend on the $500 million Rebuild initiative.

“As you can see, this site is a perfect candidate for Rebuild. You all have dealt with a failing roof, flooding basements, a playground and fields that need work,” Kenney told an audience of more than 50 community members, many of them children eating pretzels and water ice as he spoke at the press conference, held on Tuesday.  “I hope that you can rest a little easier knowing help is on the way and that soon you will start to see investments that you deserve.”

Assuming the project statement approved Monday gets passed by the full Council before its summer recess — Kenney indicated on Tuesday he has the votes to do so — it’ll open the door to a first cohort of more than 60 facilities receiving Rebuild funds over the course of the anticipated seven-year program. However, the soda-tax funded initiative is operating with only a fraction of the overall budget while the controversial levy remains in limbo with the courts — meaning that only a handful of those 60-plus sites can expect upgrades in the interim. The administration has said it won’t borrow $300 million in bonds unless the courts rule in their favor.

Olney will be second in line, after Vare Recreation Center in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry, to receive program funds, out of the 406 parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and libraries eligible for upgrades across the city.