WEIRTON - City residents concerned with vandalism, rowdy behavior and the lack of supervision at a playground in their ward asked Weirton's park board for help Wednesday.
Two residents who were at the meeting said they recently gave the mayor a petition with the signatures of some 50 Ward 4 residents, "all complaining about the playground, saying that's where the problems are" starting in their neighborhood.
On resident said the neighborhood has seen problems at the playground since the summer, adding that "kids over 12" who hang out at the playground had even thrown rocks at people and property in the area. More serious activity, including a home invasion and drug use, also have occurred, the resident said.
Another pointed out the lack of supervision, even by parents. Some pre-teens are at the park, unattended, as late as "1 or 2 a.m.," that residents said, adding that even during the daytime hours some parents just leave young children at the playground without any supervision.
Park board member Ed Bowman suggested a new petition needs to be drafted and circulated specifying "a very clearly-stated goal" spelling out whatever action the residents would like to see happen at the playground.
"Your problems with the playground are not unique, but that's no comfort to you," Bowman said, adding they cannot act without a clear-cut mandate from residents. Board members pointed out posting age limits isn't going to keep older youth away from the lot, nor would removing equipment in winter months.
Board members, meanwhile, were told a recent oldies dance at Marland Heights Park featuring the Legends band and former resident Harry Stock attracted several hundred area residents interested in the preservation of Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool.
"We've raised over $5,000 in three weeks," Marland Heights Community Association President Doug Jackson said, adding a highlight of the dance came when organizers led a countdown that ended with the pool lights being turned on again for the first time in years. "People literally jumped to their feet screaming and clapping," he said.
Next up will be an Oktoberfest celebration planned from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 and featuring family-oriented activities, such as hayrides, pumpkin painting and ice skating.
Jackson also said a spring fundraiser is in the works that would be more of a black-tie event, featuring well-known jazz singers and musicians. He said he'd already lined up corporate sponsorships, including a Fortune 500 company, willing to help underwrite the event.
Board members told Jackson that based on an opinion from their insurer, the nonprofit community association will have to carry its own liability policy if and when the park is leased to them.
Terry Weigel, director of parks and recreation, said a lease agreement would not relieve the city of liability in the event someone is hurt at the park, so the community association will be required to provide a certificate of insurance prior to a lease being signed.
"(And) until you take over (the park), you should probably have one-day event riders," Weigel said.
Until the lease is executed, the board is waiving park rental fees for the group's fundraisers.
"The bottom line is, we're going to work with you," Bowman added.
Jackson said he has meetings set up with the attorney general and secretary of state and wanted to have the opinion in hand beforehand. The meetings will have no bearing on them obtaining the necessary insurance, but Jackson said he just wants to make sure they're aware of the grassroots effort under way to preserve the historic pool.
"When you're going after the amount of money I'm after, I just want to make sure everybody knows who we are and what we are," he said.
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)