Emotions ran high Monday night as Lavallette officials considered whether to approve the acceptance of a borough family’s donation of new basketball courts in honor of their late son.
Dave and Nancy Daly, of Reese Avenue, have said they will pay for a new basketball facility in town in honor of their son, George. George Daly, 20, died while away at college in 2015, according to a tribute article in the University of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper. An “avid” sports fan, George enjoyed playing baseball and basketball, the article said.
The plan faced opposition from some members of the Lavallette community because the Daly family planned to place a sign at the site, recognizing that the two courts were built in George’s honor. The group of residents, some from the borough’s Beautification Committee, argued that the sign – scaled down to 3-feet by 4-feet – was too big and inconsistent with a policy that generally discouraged memorial signage in town.
But the majority of residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting – as well as previous meeting where the issue was discussed – were in favor of the Dalys’ plan.
“You’re never going to have 100 percent support” on anything, said Robin Allen. “It’s the Dalys’ vision, their memorial and their money. I think we should let them have it their way.”
The family has pledged to cover the entire cost of the construction of the courts, which will amount to about $170,000. Under the plan being considered, two new basketball courts will be built on what is presently a vacant roller hockey rink. Beside the basketball courts will be two volleyball courts. The Daly family agreed to reduce the size of the memorial sign and add additional walkways, as was requested by some residents.
“We’ve been through numerous discussions and meetings on it, and I promised them we would put it up to a definitive yes or no vote today,” announced Mayor Walter LaCicero, before the discussion on the plan began.
Though she ultimately voted in favor of the project, Councilwoman Joanne Filippone raised concerns that had been voiced by some who were unconvinced that the project should move forward.
“We adopted a policy that memorials of any type would be very restrictive,” Filippone said. “It’s no secret that the size of this sign and the location of this sign, despite its purpose of expressing a deep sense of emotion, is going against this policy.”
She likened placing a sign at the site of a donation to “selling off pieces of Lavallette to the highest bidder.”
Mark Speaker, another resident, echoed the same sentiment.
“It will open the floodgates” to more memorial signs, Speaker said. “It will no longer be the Lavallette that [people] have all enjoyed.”
A larger number of residents voiced support.
Sheila Porcelli, of Brooklyn Avenue, said the Daly family’s motivation was to not only remember their son, but improve their community.
“It’s not just important because it’s about their son,” she said. “It’s important to them because it’s about the children of this community, so they’ll have a place to come. That bayfront is the jewel in the crown … and it is not their intention to make anything intrusive at all.”
Lisa Storms, of Pershine Avenue, said she works in fundraising for a hospital and favored the family being recognized with a sign.
“It’s very common when someone gives a gift in kind that people have signs,” said Storms. “It’s in memory of. This is a family town, and this is a family who lost their son, who loved to play basketball on that court. This is what this town is about.”
“When someone gives you something, you say ‘thank you,'” Storms continued. “I am astonished that everyone on this board is not simply saying ‘thank you.'”
The borough council voted 5-1 in favor of allowing the project to move forward, eliciting a round of applause from the audience at the council meeting. Councilman Michael Stogdill cast the lone dissenting vote.
“We’ve changed it, we’ve modified it, and we’ve met many times,” Council President Anita Zalom said of the plan. “I’m hoping that this is something we are all going to be able to enjoy.”