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A lot to unpack over the public safety facility

There’s a mixed bag of information over a proposed public safety facility and the future of the Edwin J. Bowman Baseball Field (once known as Cove Field) even following Thursday’s two-hour town hall meeting.

The idea of a public safety facility has been tossed around by city officials for well over 30 years, and, it appears, everyone who has spoken on the topic agrees it is needed. I’ve walked around portions of the current Weirton Police Department offices over the years, and I can say without hesitation, more room is needed. That’s not even touching sanitary issues which have been discussed.

Much of the debate has been over the location of the proposed facility. Weirton Council contracted with an architectural firm to put together a feasibility study, looking at 16 sites in the city. The initial proposal (not the final one by any means) looked at a 37,000-square-foot facility with some major bells and whistles. With that size of a facility, the baseball field was the most likely site. It was big enough to fit what was suggested, it is owned by the city and is not only located downtown but also within Municipal Plaza.

Thursday night, City Manager Mike Adams explained that proposal is continuously being reviewed, and has been cut down by about half. The hope is to still provide for the police department’s needs but with a few less wants. That should, he said, make some of the other reviewed sites more possible for use, while also cutting down the costs.

That way, the ballfield might not have such a huge target on it when it comes to this project. I know not everyone on council was in favor of the proposal anyway, and Mayor Harold Miller openly came out against it Thursday. There are some, though, who are still pushing for it. That is going to make it interesting as these discussions continue.

While all of that is going on, though, there is a question as to how much usage the field will receive in the future. The Hancock County Board of Education is moving ahead on a project which would build a new softball field on the campus of Weir High School, and then convert the current softball field into a baseball field.

Weirton Madonna is still set to use the downtown field as its home base, and local Legion teams have played there, along with it serving as a satellite location for the Beast of the East tournament held in July.

The Park Board has a variety of uses, including its Easter egg hunt, some of its youth leagues and other activities. Weir High stepping away in about two years could also open the doors for other opportunities. That would all be good.

The thing to remember is so much of this is still up in the air. Just about all of it is a set of moving pieces, and discussions are continuing.

One of my own personal issues is the way it all is being politicized. This most recent push for a public safety facility, after only a couple of months, became one of the issues featured in the disputes between city council and the former city manager. One side wanted to go in a certain direction, the other wanted it done differently. I’m aware of some arguments, but I’m sure there were more.

Thursday night, an accusation was raised as to whether it has become a point used in the interview process in selecting a new Ward 2 council representative. That is wrong in so many ways, and if true, would call into question the validity of the pick, which is scheduled to be announced at Tuesday’s Weirton Council meeting.

Even Thursday’s town hall had that touch of political theater thrown in.

These are quality of life issues for the Weirton community. It’s the future of public safety and recreation, both of which are important when trying to attract new residents and businesses. As I’ve said before, none of this should be about scoring points or getting credit.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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