Three parks saved

STEUBENVILLE — Three of four tot lots that were eyed for closure have been saved by neighborhood volunteers, leaving only the Flats playground above the North End to be recommended for closure.

The city Board of Parks and Recreation voted Wednesday evening to recommend City Council keep the Parkdale, Devonshire and Linda Way playgrounds open while closing the Flats.

The vote by the board was 4-1, with board President Ken Peterson saying he wasn’t in favor of closing any park. He said the Flats was being used by a youth football group for practice. He also noted the city will still have to pay to mow the lot, meaning the cost will still come out of city coffers as it would have if the recreation department had maintained it.

Board member Joe Lamantia, who also is a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy, said Chief Probation Officer Fred Abdalla Jr. and his probation officers and youth in the summer youth program deserve thanks for mowing the four parks several times.

“They will continue to do it the best they can to keep up with it. I want to thank them.

“Right after the article appeared last month in the paper about closing the parks, they stepped up to the plate,” Lamantia remarked. “Everyone thinks that a kid in trouble is a lost cause. All of these kids got into some sort of trouble. They have a lot of potential and they need guidance and help. That’s what the summer youth program is all about. I thanked them on behalf of the board for all they have done for us and will continue to do.”

Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf said neighborhood volunteers have said they will help cut grass at Linda Way, Parkdale and Devonshire. She said people came forward after the Herald-Star coverage of last month’s recreation board meeting about the potential park closures. She said with the end of most of baseball in the city, her limited work force can mow the small parks every two weeks.

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn, chair of council’s recreation committee, suggested Fetherolf not step in and instead let the neighborhood volunteers show their level of commitment to the parks.

She said the city’s recreation workers have plenty of other work to do.

City Manager Jim Mavromatis said playground equipment will be removed from the Flats.

The board gave a conditional approval to an adult basketball league that wants to play from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 24 to Sept. 4 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Board member Garfield Hayden presented the proposal to the rest of the board on behalf of Henry Fleming, who is a part-time recreation department employee.

The concern Fetherolf voiced about the league is the need to have a staffer work until 10 p.m. She said the part-time staff was hired to work 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. year round and will need to be asked if someone can work later two nights a week for the league.

She said paying additional staff or paying for more hours was not included in the recreation budget.

Hayden said, “Not one time in 47 years of working was I asked what hours do you want to work.”

The board decided to let the league move forward as long as the staffing issue is met. Fleming and Fetherolf are to discuss the matter. The league will be providing security, Hayden said.

In another matter, a softball field at Belleview Park was damaged by a church softball league representative who dug a trench to move water after a city recreation representative told the league it was too wet to play last weekend.

Fetherolf asked what procedure the board wants to follow if people ignore direct orders from the staff in the future regarding the ballfields. The city spent thousands of dollars getting some of its fields into good shape with proper crowning for water drainage this year and planned to do more fields at Belleview this fall.

The city held a class for its staff and league volunteers who maintain fields on proper field maintenance with the newly refurbished fields.

The board decided to make it clear when league applications come in January that Fetherolf will have the ability to shut down any league that ignores the staff’s orders about the ballfields.