NEWELL - The Newell Memorial Field gates are staying where they are for now.
Hancock County commissioners voted Thursday in favor of keeping the war memorial portion of the stadium property, including the steps and brick pillars, undisturbed where it is.
That pleased Mike Nixon, president of the Newell Area Civic Council, who has been advocating for community ownership and development of the memorial.
GATES TO STAY WHERE THEY ARE — On Thursday, the Hancock County Commission voted to keep the gates to Newell Memorial Field at their present location. Numerous community members have been fighting to keep the gates, which previously had plaques with the names of veterans from World War I and World War II, as a memorial for the community. -- File photo
"I'm proud of you guys for what you did," Nixon said. "The people of Newell said they were entitled to equal representation, and today you've shown a part of that."
Nixon brought a petition with 300 signatures to Thursday's county commission meeting, saying he has widespread support for keeping the gates where they are and retaining them as a landmark for the unincorporated community. The civic council recently held a rally where petitions were circulated.
Previously, commissioners said they couldn't guarantee that the war memorial would stay where it is because they hope to sell or lease the land for economic development purposes.
But on Thursday, Commissioner Dan Greathouse said he saw no problem with keeping the gates where they are while the commissioners maintain ownership of the land.
"I'm fine with that," Commissioner Jeff Davis said.
"This commission has said from day one that we'd be willing to do whatever the residents of Newell want to do," Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller said.
Commissioners bought the 4.25-acre stadium property from the Hancock County school board in December for $400,000. To date, two companies have shown an interest in the property, but the land is not yet ready for development, Greathouse said.
In June, commissioners accepted a bid from Juszczak Development to disassemble and haul away all the equipment from Newell Memorial Field, including the visitors' side bleachers, the home bleachers, the press box and all other equipment (fencing, scoreboard and lights).
Commissioners later revised the contract to also include demolition and removal of the permanent structures - concrete pilings, the concession stand and the restrooms. Juszczak will be instructed to leave the war memorial where it is, Greathouse said.
Nixon said Thursday he also wants commissioners to deed the property to a Newell organization.
"The people of Newell - not one organization - want their wall. They want that piece of land deeded to Newell, and we're not going to stop until that's done," Nixon said.
But commissioners balked at that request.
"When you say, 'Deed it to Newell,' who do you mean? Newell who?" Greathouse said.
"As long as the land belongs to the commissioners and the memorial stays where it is, I wouldn't see a reason to deed it to anyone else," Davis said.
Newell American Legion Post 114 has the bronze plaque that used to be displayed on the right brick pillar.
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