Parks & Recreation

Village Council eyes changes to skatepark

The first step toward upgrading the Yellow Springs skatepark is to bring together the various stakeholders of the park, including skaters, neighbors and neighboring businesses, according to Village Manager Mark Cundiff at the Aug. 16 Village Council meeting.

“The more we can get people together to talk, the better,” he said.

The skatepark is the Village’s second most popular recreational facility, behind only the Gaunt Park pool, according to Cundiff.

“There’s a group out there skating all the time,” he said. “We spent money on the pool and it makes sense to spend on the skatepark.”

The 2010 Village budget contains $10,000 earmarked for skatepark upgrades. Feasible next steps, following the stakeholder meeting, would be investigating costs of improvements and possible revenue sources, Cundiff said. The Village Human Relations Commission will organize the meeting.

Recently, Council member John Booth, Police Chief John Grote, Mills Lawn Principal and skateboarder Matt Housh and Cundiff inspected the park, concluding that no immediate improvements need to be made. The group talked with two skaters, who said a concrete bowl would be a good addition to the park, Cundiff wrote in a memo. Booth, Grote and Cundiff next visited several area parks to compare facilities.

Cundiff also reported on a meeting with Sam Young, co-owner of Millworks, which is located across the bikepath from the park. The owners of Millworks, which has had repeated graffiti vandalism in the past, have recently repainted their buildings and since then had to repaint four times due to vandalism, Young said. The Millworks owners are urging Council to remove the steps and gate that lead from the bike trail to the skatepark, which they believe will cut down on vandalism.

At the Aug. 16 meeting, Sam Young repeated his request that the steps and gate from the bikepath be removed, stating that Council agreed to do so a year and a half ago and has not yet followed through. While most of the skatepark users are not vandals, a small number of young people who spend time at the park do cause trouble, Young stated.

The Village has not moved ahead with removing the steps from the bikepath to the skatepark because in the interim time the Village signed an agreement with Verizon to locate a cell phone tower near the skatepark, and more information is needed about Verizon’s plans before changes are made, Cundiff said. Council member Karen Wintrow noted that Cliff Street provides access to the park for many young people, and that they would likely still enter from Cliff Street regardless of the steps’ location.

“I don’t think closing the gate and removing the steps is the entire solution, but it’s a contributing factor,” Young said.

Council asked staff to contact Verizon for more information on its tower plans and to check on the possibility of closing the bikepath gate this fall.

In other Council business:

• New Village treasurer Rachel McKinley reported on Village investments. McKinley began her new job in February, and replaced longtime Village Clerk Deborah Benning, who had acted as Village treasurer.

One of her first responsibilities has been talking with US Bank officials regarding finding ways to reduce fees on interest-bearing checking accounts, McKinley said. Last year the Village discovered it was paying about $22,000 yearly in fees for these accounts, a sum that had for several years been unknown because it was offset by interest made, according to McKinley.

While some fees will remain this year, they will be significantly reduced, she said. As with most municipalities, there will be little or no revenue from interest this year, and the current interest yield for the Village in 2010 is about $662, according to McKinley’s report.

• In response to a question to Council at a previous meeting, Council President Judith Hempfling reported on the status of a current lawsuit against the Village, after having consulted with Village Law Director John Chambers. Community residents Kenneth and Beth Struewing filed suit against the Village in September 2009 regarding their request that their Hyde Road property, which is located outside the Village but abuts the Village boundary line, be provided Village utilities service. According to Chambers, the Village hopes to mediate a settlement sometime this year or in 2011.

• Council unanimously approved the final vote approving the execution of a smart power plant schedule with American Municipal Power Inc., or AMP, the municipal electric co-operative. The smart power plant is a program that allows Village residents and businesses to take advantage of consulting services on energy conservation measures. The program is funded by fees leveled by the Ohio EPA against Ohio municipalities, including Yellow Springs, that purchased power from the AMP Gorsuch coal plant, which was penalized for not making necessary upgrades. The Gorsuch plant will go offline in 2012.

• Council unanimously approved the second reading of a supplemental appropriations ordinance, with some budget changes due to additional health insurance costs.

• Council authorized Cundiff to enter into an agreement to renew insurance coverage with Property Casualty Insurance for 2011, at a decrease of about $2,000 out of a total cost of $45,000.

• Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that requires villagers to obtain a demolition permit and turn off all utilities if structures are being demolished.

• Council’s next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 26. It will meet jointly with the Yellow Springs Board of Education at the music room at Mills Lawn School, to discuss how best to attract new families to the village, among other topics.

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