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Weirton officials wait for guidance on pools

WEIRTON — While the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation continues to wait for guidance from the state before deciding on whether to open Starvaggi Memorial Pool for the summer, officials are working on plans for the use of other recreational facilities in the city.

The board met by teleconference Thursday morning, with Parks Director Coty Shingle explaining while some preparations to possibly reopen the pool have been made, whether a swimming season can be held ultimately is up to when clearance is given by Gov. Jim Justice as part of the state’s reopening plan.

Shingle said his understanding is it could still be at least a week before public swimming pools are considered. Justice announced a timeline for public pools to reopen during his Thursday afternoon briefing.

“It’s not about the budget, it’s about the process,” Shingle said, noting it would be difficult to have the pool open under current social distancing guidelines, which limit public gatherings to no more than 25 people.

Typically, the pool would be opening for its summer season this weekend.

Board Chair Ed Bowman noted the decisions made by surrounding communities about whether to open their pools also could influence the pool’s opening.

“That’s going to put a different light on what we do,” Bowman noted.

Earlier this week, Steubenville Council decided not to open Belleview Pool. The village of Mingo Junction also has closed its pool. The city of Follansbee has yet to make a decision on its pool’s opening.

Board member Doug Finton said the timeline of when a decision could be made also could influence whether the pool opens, as the length of the season might not make it worthwhile.

Finton did, however, encourage the board to look at opening the tennis and basketball courts and playground at Starvaggi Park.

“On a daily basis, you see people down there,” Finton said, noting he has had to explain to several youth wanting to use the courts that they are closed.

Board member Deb Witkowski asked about Marland Heights Park, as there are no gates to keep the public out as with Starvaggi Park. Board member Iris Himmelrick replied there are people using the courts on Marland Heights, but they are practicing social distancing.

The rental of shelters would be another issue, Shingle said, explaining it would be difficult to make those available under current conditions.

“We’ve had many people call and cancel or move their events to a later date,” he said.

As for the Millsop Community Center, it, too, remains closed, although the board expressed interest in developing a plan for its reopening, working alongside the City of Weirton’s administration.

In a related matter, the board was approached by city resident Luke Myers with a request to use the Edwin J. Bowman Field for a proposed summer baseball league. Myers explained while spring high school sports and Legion baseball seasons have been canceled, there has been discussion about an informal local league comprised of area school and Legion teams.

Bowman asked for additional information before a decision could be made. Shingle said if the field were to be used, social distancing and personal protective equipment guidelines would have to be followed.

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