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Recreation director considers options

December 13, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - City Recreation Director Troy Kirkendall said Wednesday he is considering his future options and may resign from the post he has held since February 2011.

Kirkendall made his announcement during a special parks and recreation board meeting called to discuss the recreation department in 2013.

"I am still considering my options at this point. But I wanted the board to hear about this from me. I don't want to see the recreation program fall apart. I am not just parting ways. I don't have anything else lined up yet. And I am willing to help you out as long as I can. I will be there for you as long as I can. I really don't know where I am going or what I am going to do," Kirkendall told the board members.

Kirkendall was named the director of parks and recreation in early February 2011 to replace Dwan Johnson, who resigned in September 2010.

He moved to Steubenville from Southwestern Kentucky, where he was in charge of nine parks.

"I have worked in several places and Steubenville feels the most like home," Kirkendall commented.

"I am excited to be here and to be taking on these new duties. And I am looking forward to working to grow recreation in the community," Kirkendall said in 2011.

"We are talking about an individual's life here. He can't be expected to tread water. I appreciate everything you have done and I pray you will stay here in Steubenville," board Chairperson Sandi Rue remarked.

But last week Kirkendall had to lay off four part-time recreation aides at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and move full-time recreation staff workers to the center in order to keep the building open until March on a reduced operating schedule.

City officials have cited a projected deficit in 2012 and a larger projected deficit in 2013 as the reason for the cutback in recreation services.

City Manager Cathy Davison had announced at the November recreation board meeting that the pool would not open next year because of financial issues facing the city.

Davison said Wednesday night she has held discussions with three major interests in the community who expressed interest in re-opening the Belleview Pool in 2013.

"And I had a meeting Monday with local community stakeholders who had a list of 600 people willing to be part of the solution and willing to work to keep the MLK Center open. We will ask them to fill out a volunteer form so a police background check can be done," Davison shared with the recreation board members.

"I have been training city police officers on how to close the recreation center if I am unavailable to be there. And we will be closing for the Christmas and New Year's holidays," Kirkendall noted.

"If there was one thing I have done right while I have been on this board, it was the hiring of Troy as recreation director. He has been great," observed board member Jason Jenkins.

Board member Vicki Nurczyk agreed and called Kirkendall " a true professional."

The recreation board, City Council recreation committee members and Davison said there will be a greater need for volunteers to maintain recreation activities in the city in 2013.

"We can't dwell on yesterday. We have to move forward. I can show you cities that are much worse. We don't want to get that bad. Maybe civic organizations can step up and sponsor a day to keep the recreation center open. People from Steubenville have to help Steubenville," board member Jim Emmerling said.

"I don't think a lot of people realize how many under privileged kids there are in this community. They need recreation activities. We have to figure this out. There are not a whole lot of places for kids to go. At some point we have to get more people involved in our community," continued Emmerling.

City Manager Cathy Davison said she has been in discussions with Franciscan University of Steubenville and Eastern Gateway Community College regarding mentors and interns volunteering at the center.

"I also plan to talk to the Ohio Governor's Office on Appalachia about any possible funding. I do not want to see the recreation center close," said Davison.

"We are all here for the kids in this community. We have to keep the recreation center for the kids," stated 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul.

Paul also suggested banner advertising at the parks may generate additional money for recreation.

Councilman at large Kenny Davis said he "believes the council, recreation board and city administration will find ways to keep the recreation center open."

"But we need to work together. Recreation may not be what it once was but we are going to do our best," Davis said.

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