Limited funding no fun for Steubenville’s recreation department

ADDRESSING COUNCIL — Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis speaks during Tuesday’s city council meeting. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — Lori Fetherolf, the city parks and recreation director, told City Council earlier this week her department does its best with a shoestring budget.

Fetherolf pointed out that while the city has 13 parks and play sites, she has just a $100,000 capital budget to work with.

“We’re just limited in our funds,” Fetherolf said. “That (capital projects fund) sounds like a lot, but it’s not.”

Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn told council over the past five years more than $285,000 had been spent on projects at Belleview Park, roughly $271,000 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, more than $124,000 at North End park, and $53,000 at Pleasant Heights, along with nearly $50,000 for the shared-use path.

Just $3,500 had been earmarked for projects at Beatty Park, though she noted looming repairs to a bridge dating to the 1880s could cost several hundred thousand dollars.

“In other words, the city hasn’t been focused on any one park in any particular year,” Hahn said, adding that spending tended to reflect pressing needs.

Fetherolf said she’s hoping to get grant money to offset some of the repair costs, and noted decisions on if and how to repair the roof of a shelter that caught fire during a cold spell earlier this year have been delayed until the bridge’s future is decided.

Fetherolf also told council it takes two people equipped with riding mowers two hours to mow and weedwack the MLK site, four hours to do Jim Woods Park and three hours to do Belleview. The North End field takes one person four hours, “because some of it has to be push-mowed,” she said.

Fetherolf also said that, other than the Linda Way park, “tot lots are not being cut by volunteers on a regular basis.”

City Manager Jim Mavromatis has said he plans to recommend council close several play sites that are being under-utilized because the parks department lacks both the manpower and funds to maintain them. The possibility of recruiting volunteers to help maintain them is again being discussed as a way to stave off closing any of them, though Fetherolf previously had said volunteer assistance typically starts strong but tends to wane later in the summer season.

In discussing some of the vandalism that has plagued the parks, Fetherolf told council two individuals who kicked in the fence at the Belleview Playground will, as part of their community service hours, be assigned to take the entire fence down, section-by-section, so it can be reused elsewhere.

Fetherolf said after the board decided the fence should come down, the supervisor overseeing their community service decided it was only right that the two address the damage they’d done.