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Recreational improvements under study

LISTENING — Members of Weirton Council and the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation listened, Wednesday, as Parks Executive Director Coty Shingle outlines some of the improvement proposals for Weirton’s recreational facilities. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — The Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation has put together a wish list for the future of the city’s recreational facilities, with a goal of developing a plan for future capital improvements.

Park board members met with Weirton Council Wednesday to highlight the recreational offerings in the community, along with a variety of projects — some necessary and some hoped for — to address the needs of the city’s parks, playgrounds and other recreational sites.

“I don’t believe there’s enough communication between the Park Board and council,” board Chair Edwin J. Bowman said.

Parks Executive Director Coty Shingle displayed a slideshow, presenting the available facilities, their history and many of the programs and services currently offered by the Park Board.

Starting with the Weirton Millsop Community Center, officials noted it as the focal point of the parks system and a cornerstone of the community.

The center opened in 1952, and cost $1.4 million to build, an amount Shingle noted was raised in 14 days through donations from the community.

Over the years, it has been a hub for events, recreational services and community activities.

“There are very few places like it across the state, indeed across the country,” Shingle said.

Since 1998, it has received $1 million in upgrades, but the board is facing one large project in the coming years with repairs needed on a sinking portion of the building’s south wall.

“We would never let people use a facility that was going to fall down around them,” Shingle said, explaining there is no immediate danger to the public as a result of the sinking.

Current estimates for the repairs are set to exceed $500,000.

While not a priority, Shingle also presented a wish list for the center, to include a 24-hour access workout area, air conditioning for the gymnasium, free weight room and selectorized weight room, a Dry-O-Tron dehumidifier system for the pool area and an automated chemical system for the pool. Those wish list items are estimated to have a cost of between $295,000 and $420,000, Shingle said.

Starvaggi Memorial Park was built in 1968, and seen $700,000 in improvements since 1997, much with assistance from the Starvaggi Civic Association.

Shingle noted the major project needed there is the replacement of the swimming pool vessel, which would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

“The vessel is at least 25 years past its useful life,” Shingle explained. “You’ll eventually get to a point where you’ll have to close it.”

Other projects include paving and lining the parking lot, at between $385,000 and $425,000, and installing ADA-compliant shelter restrooms at a cost of between $30,000 and $50,000.

Wish list items would include paving of the access road, replacing the pool slides, replacing the spray pad and playground system and installing a new security system.

Marland Heights Park was built in 1934 and deeded to the city in 1984, with the pool closed in 2005.

“We sold 21 memberships the last year it was open,” Shingle noted. “It’s still a great, viable park.”

Proposed projects in that park would include repurposing the pool site, replacing the playground safety surface, mulch, painting and tree removal, at an estimated cost of $107,500 to $314,000. In addition, the board would like to see the tennis and basketball courts paved, shelter roofs replaced, the installation of a spray zone and the hiring of a full-time, on-site maintenance person.

The Edwin J. Bowman Field was last renovated in 1994, and seen $30,000 in improvements in the last five years.

Must-have items include a new scoreboard at between $15,000 and $25,000, and a new natural infield at $15,000 to $20,000. The wish list includes a field tarp, a turn infield, outfield warning track, utility building, commercial tractor and commercial utility vehicle, as well as a canopy for the bleachers and full-time staffing. This would cost between $408,500 and $692,000.

Shingle also provided a list for the Panhandle Recreational Trail, which is managed by the park board with aid from a volunteer committee. Must haves there include a commercial tractor and staffing, while wish list items are asphalt paving, a utility building, restrooms, a security system and lighting.

Improvements also are needed at the city’s various neighborhood playgrounds, Shingle noted.

Michael Adams, who serves as both Ward 2 councilman and as a member of the Park Board, explained the use of Weirton’s recreational sites, not only by city residents but by those of other communities in the area, especially the Millsop Center.

“Morning, noon and night, that community center is continually used,” Adams said, telling of one morning he spoke to residents of Mingo Junction, Steubenville, Toronto, Wellsburg and Follansbee.

Officials noted while swimming pools are not designed to make a profit, they are expected to be provided as a community service.

“It’s a necessary evil,” Ward 6 Councilman Enzo Fracasso said.

Mayor Harold Miller said, while he appreciates the efforts of the Park Board and the information included in the presentation, he feels the city needs something new and innovative to attract new revenue.

“We’ve got to do something different,” Miller said.

Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh recommended the board and council establish a master plan for the recreational system, to better plan what improvements to make and when, as well as how to attract funding.

“We need to look 50 years in and see where we want to be,” Marsh said.

Other discussion also included the possibility of a recreation levy in the city, but officials noted it would need at least a 60 percent approval, which they said could be difficult to obtain.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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