Recreation Plan Requires Caution

A proposal for a privately owned new indoor recreational complex in Moundsville certainly is intriguing. At first glance, it seems like something city officials should support.

Were the proposal to be an entirely private-sector endeavor, there would be no question about that. Government’s job is to stay out of the private sector’s way as much as possible.

But there is a public policy issue involved, and that means Moundsville City Council needs to ask a long list of questions.

Moundsville resident Eric Tucker asked for city officials’ support during a meeting this week of City Council’s policy committee. He explained that he represents a number of local businesses interested in establishing an indoor recreation complex.

“It’s not a YMCA, but it’s very similar to what a YMCA-type facility would do,” Tucker explained. The complex would be available for use by people of all ages, but would be aimed primarily at children. It could include “a couple basketball courts, an indoor, multipurpose turf field that could be used for baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, you name it,” he added.

So far, so good. The more recreational facilities, the better, especially if they are available for year-round use.

But Tucker and his associates want to build the complex on city-owned land at the East End Park. That imposes additional responsibility on city officials.

Tucker emphasized to council members that, “The investors may never get their money back, ever. If it operates in the red, an investor won’t get one cent out of it until there’s a profit.”

Fine, but the fact the proposal is for a private facility with the potential to make a profit for investors is crucial. City officials cannot simply give or lease the land to Tucker’s group without ensuring no one else is interested in it. A bidding process may be necessary.

At least two members of City Council, Phil Remke and David Wood, want action on the proposal immediately. “Either we table it and sit here like we normally do, or we go forward with gusto,” suggested Remke.

Council should look into the proposal as soon as possible. But several issues, ranging from whether there is a potential public use for the property in question and what, if any, consideration the city would receive, need to be explored. This is a situation in which going forward with gusto — but also with prudence — is necessary.