WEIRTON - The future of the Weirton skate park is up in the air as officials work to decide who will be responsible for its maintenance.
The park, as well as security issues surrounding the Termite Youth Basketball League, was discussed Thursday by the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation.
At the Aug. 11 Weirton City Council meeting, Ward 4 Councilman George Ash Sr. requested that Parks Department Director and Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel find out whether the parks department was responsible for upkeep of the skate park that opened under the direction of Mark Harris, former mayor, in 2009.
In September 2013, Harris was charged with embezzling $16,273.22 from the skate park project, which was paid for by a state grant and donated funds. In exchange for three felony counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy being dismissed with prejudice, Harris paid back the amount in June 2014.
The skate park is located in the state parking lot in Weirton Municipal Plaza between the Edwin J. Bowman Ballfield and the Weirton rail yard.
"Twice, before all of that, the Parks Board was approached about building a skate park. In both cases the Parks Board chose not to do it because we did not think enough interest was there and because, at that time, we were told that our insurance would increase by $10,000. We didn't have the funding," Weigel said.
When the board was requested to build a skate park a third time, from Harris, they said "no" again but added the stipulation that if Harris could obtain the funding and pay for the project, it could go forward.
"This is a $10,000 expense right off the bat if we agree to maintenance," Ed Bowman, board member said. "We have a very minimal work force, and we're having difficulty keeping up with maintenance now. So it would not be practical or prudent for us to take on this responsibility. The Parks Board did not implement this. The Parks Board did not build this. This was strictly from the city administration."
Ronnie Jones, board member, said that right now the park only needs a coat of paint and that he would like to see it stay open for local kids.
"A lot of kids use it. I think we have enough people in Weirton that we can take care of that," Jones said.
Bowman motioned to draft a letter to Ash, Mayor George Kondik and the rest of City Council respectfully turning down the responsibility of maintaining the skate park, and board members voted unanimously to take that course of action.
Ron Greer of the Weirton Termite Youth Basketball League, which plays at the Millsop Community Center, said that a letter has been drafted asking parents, participants and spectators to behave appropriately. It will be distributed to all parents at the start of the season.
Altercations amongst parents and referees posed a problem last year, and Bowman has suggested hiring a security officer to attend games. Greer said that the cost of security would be "inconceivable."
"We are scheduling mandatory meetings for all coaches to go over some of our problems. It gets too competitive. It's just a few of the people who go ballistic," Greer said.
He added that this year the league will enforce a strict "zero tolerance" policy for aggressive or inappropriate behavior. Anyone violating rules will be expelled from the game and from the league.
Weigel announced that the Hancock County Commission approved a $10,000 grant for further renovations on the locker rooms and concession stand at Starvaggi Park.
The commission also approved another $10,000 grant for the Marland Heights Community Association to use in their restoration of the Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool.
At their June meeting, the board voted to lease the pool at Marland Heights Park to the MHCA. The association has been working for the past few years to revitalize and reopen the pool site, which is now recognized by the West Virginia National Registry of Historic Places.
Attorneys representing the board and the MHCA have been working to finalize details in the lease. The board is being represented by City Attorney Vincent Gurrera, and the MHCA is being represented by David B. Cross, an attorney based in Wellsburg. A special meeting could be held sometime before the next regularly scheduled board meeting to make the lease official.
The MHCA will be hosting an Oldies Dance in the park featuring Legend and DJ Harry Stock on Aug. 30 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and a Car Cruise is scheduled for Sept. 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The rain date will be Sept. 21. All proceeds from those events will go toward restoring the pool.
Board members convened into an executive session that lasted nearly an hour to discuss personnel matters at the beginning of the meeting.