Thousands of people who have enjoyed fun events like picnics, swimming, parties, sporting events, tennis and just plain leisurely time away from the hectic workplace and fast pace of living will have such pleasures denied if Memorial Park in St. Clairsville is forced to cease operations.
And park official say it will have to be closed if a small levy - of 1 mill - is not given voter approval at the May 7 primary election.
Jack McKeever, a member of the Memorial Park board, explained to a newly formed citizens committee the problems the park has encountered over the years. The committee will be going all out to educate St. Clairsville and Richland Township residents about some misconceptions about the park and how it is operated and financially supported.
"The main thing is that people in St. Clairsville believe the park belongs to the city and is financed by the city. That is totally wrong," McKeever said. "St. Clairsville doesn't pay the park a dime." He said the city's only contribution to the park's operation is it funds the first filling of the swimming pool in the spring.
When the city income tax was passed, McKeever said there were residents of the city who believed some of that tax money would be used for developing the park. None of that money goes for the park, McKeever emphasized.
By the same token, McKeever noted there are also those who believe the park is owned by the Richland Township. He noted the park is a separate entity and at one time the township trustees did offer financial assistance to its operation but more recently, because of financial cuts the township has endured from the state, their contribution is minimal.
"Years ago the township gave us money, usually at the start of the season and at the end of the season to catch up on our bills." He said that provided the park with about $55,000 a year to meet the payroll and other park expenses. But that assistance no longer exists.
"At one time we got around $35,000 from the state. What we get from the state and the county now doesn't pay our insurance," McKeever said. The state has continually cut local government funding to the point where the park receives about $9,000 a year.
Many years ago when the park was in its infancy, McKeever said making improvements at the park was not a major problems, "We'd contract the major coal companies, like Hanna Coal and some others back then and they'd send financial help." He said that hasn't happened in a long time.
One of the most popular activities at the park is the swimming pool. "But it doesn't make enough money to entirely support the park," McKeever noted. "A lot of people think the park is just the swimming pool. We have many activities and attractions there. St. Clairsville High School plays all of its baseball games at the field in the park. The track team practices there and so does the tennis team. The tennis courts are used by the public at no charge.
"There is no charge for any of these activities. But then afterwards there is a clean-up of the grounds that has to take place. We have a 40-acre site to clean-up and we can't afford to pay anybody anything to do that."
McKeever is owner-operator of Angelina Stone & Marble in Lansing and is planning in the near future to take workers from his plant out to Memorial Park to fix some fences, since there are no park funds to hire someone to do that.
Six years ago the voters in St. Clairsville and Richland Township approved a levy which provided the park with funds for some big improvements. The major undertaking was a $460,000 project to repair the deteriorating swimming pool. But that levy has expired. An opportunity to renew the levy last November did not get the needed support. The 1 mill levy will again be on the May 7 primary ballot.
The citizens group to whom McKeever was speaking is planning to launch a door-to-door campaign in St. Clairsville and Richland Township passing out leaflets on the levy issue to gain voter support.
For the average taxpayer the levy would cost less than the price of two blizzards desserts for a year. For residents with a $50,000 home, the cost would be $3.85 a year. For a $100,000 home, it would be $7.66. Last time I bought a blizzard at Dairy Queen it cost me less than $4.
For that small contribution for a whole year from each homeowner in the city and township the Memorial Park board would receive about $82,000 to continue improvements at the park and keep it from closing.
While making their rounds, the committee members will also inform residents that absentee ballots for the May primary can be cast starting Tuesday. Also the board of elections in St. Clairsville will have a voting booth in the lobby of their building in Plaza West for those desiring to cast their ballots in person prior to the May 7 primary.
Looking for a job?
Then the Ohio Valley Mall is the place to be on Wednesday when representatives of businesses from throughout the Ohio Valley will be on hand to talk with the unemployed or those who may want to improve themselves about job opportunities available in the area.
Ninety-seven businesses ranging from major companies to small offices and stores will be there for the annual Ohio Valley Job Fair. Michael Schlanz and his staff at the Belmont County Connections office in Martins Ferry have spent weeks putting together the fair, which annually attracts hundreds of individuals and opens the door to new employment for many.
This is the seventh year for the fair and Schlanz has noted that all of the previous ones have been great successes. The business representatives will be available between noon and 4 p.m.
Although all three Belmont County commissioners cast approving votes on a proposal by Belmont County Engineer to increase car license plate costs by $10 to get funds needed to fix county roads and bridges, at least one commissioner indicated the public's response may change her vote.
Two public hearings on the proposal will be held within the next month and commission President Ginny Favede indicated her final vote on the increased license fee will depend on the reaction of car owners to the increased cost.
What the commissioners did last week was approve a resolution to set dates for the public hearings. Once the license fee issue is legally advertised twice in the local newspaper, the first public hearing will be held. That should be around mid-April. Then less than 10 days later a second public hearing will be held
Then on May 1 or shortly thereafter, the commission will meet to either vote to enact the resolution and thus approve the increased fee or reject the resolution.
While the engineer's office would be the major recipient of about $530,000 provided by the increase, villages and municipalities would get a share of the overall revenue produced by the license tax increase. Their share would amount to about $141,384.
Dinner, cash prizes and refreshments will be available at a reverse raffle event to be held by the Barton Volunteer Fire Department at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Firemen's Social Hall in Barton. Proceeds derived from the $25 per person event will go toward a project to construct restrooms at the firemen's field.
Only 200 tickets are being sold and there will be 20 cash prizes awarded, including a $1,000 grand prize. Tickets are available by calling Bev Chillog at 695-2779. It is a no smoking event but breaks will be taken during the raffle so that smokers can have a cigarette outside.
Al Molnar can be reached via email at: email@example.com or by phone at 740 695-5233.