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Park ledger is in the black

By Staff | Sep 17, 2014

It’s not often that any issue at a city council is met with applause, but that is exactly what happened at the Sistersville City Council meeting Sept. 8 when Parks Director Audist Pancake announced that the parks ended their summer with a positive ledger.

“At the end of the pool season they were in the black instead of in the red this year,” announced Pancake. She thanked the community because she and the others working to turn the park around had a lot of support.

“It just goes to show that we really do have people who believe in this community,” said Pancake.

“The park and pool has been in the red for decades. That is a $28,000 swing from last year,” noted Finance Committee Chairman Mark Klages. “That is money they can use to improve the lives of the kids here in town.”

“I can tell you that the park and pool has been completely self-supporting,” confirmed Recorder Kari Huffman.

Mayor Bill Rice said he can remember a year they were $35,000 in the red. “It is just phenomenal the job they have done down there,” said the mayor.

Pancake gave a summary of the pool’s season, which ended Aug. 30. She said they averaged 80-100 attendees per day. “It was wonderful,” she said.

They had 10 “free days” this year thanks to sponsorships of business and individuals. One of those included a family picnic day thanks to IGA.

Councilman Phil Konopacky said they are considering offering a free swimming day next year on Heroes Day, which honors emergency responders. They are hoping it would increase attendance at the festivities in the park.

A total of 54 children took swimming lessons this summer. Shelters were booked all summer and are still being booked.

David Pancake made a particular note of the new handicap accessibility features. He said two adults showed up the last day of the pool season in wheelchairs and utilized the lifts at the pool. They also used the swings.

“If you had seen the looks on their faces, it was worth the money that was spent on those chairs,” said David.

While this year’s improvements by the park and pool committee have been significant, they are not ready to rest on their accomplishments.

Audist said they are planning to do a lot of fund raisers this fall and winter because they still have a lot of repairs and upgrades they want to do.

“It’s only going to get better,” she promised.

Two major projects are the addition of a splash park and establishment of a skate park.

The splash park may be set to get a nice boost after an action council took at their Sept. 8 meeting.

They voted to sell Hubbard Park, located behind the Sistersville Post Office, and give the proceeds to the splash park project.

“I get a lot of complaints on Hubbard Park,” said Rice, as he offered photos to council to view of the unkept and largely unused space.

“People say, ‘Why don’t you get rid of it if you can’t maintain it?'” said Rice.

The mayor said he asked Ryan Morgan, former city attorney who dealt with the creation of the park and he said it can be sold.

Council voted to sell the land at public auction. However, anything the park and pool committee can use, such as bushes and features, will be removed.

“I think we can get some pretty good bids,” noted Rice.

Klages thinks it should have a reserve bid. Consequently the motion included following City Attorney Carolyn Flanner’s advice that may include an appraisal.

“Thank you!” Audist told council after their vote on the motion.

The parks also hope to add to their accounts through a fund raiser this Saturday.

Sistersville Slam, a pro wrestling event, will be held Sept. 20, 2-4 p.m., in the James Willison Family Center, otherwise known as the old high school gym, on Work Street.

Tickets are $6 for bleachers, $10 for ringside, and children six years of age and younger are admitted for free. Advanced tickets are now available at Sistersville City Hall and tickets will be made available at the door of the James Willison Family Center the day of the show.

The event is sponsored by Black Diamond Wrestling in conjunction with the Sistersville Parks and Recreation Board.

At this past weekend’s Oil and Gas Festival they also held a silent auction and raffled a BMX bicycle to benefit the skate park project.

Also, Audist told council she was going to set up a meeting with the park and pool and junior sports to look at how to do the work at the gym without depleting their funds.

In one other parks matter, council voted unanimously to accept Bennett’s Tree Service’s bid to remove 17 large pine trees near the pool, along the property line. Chris Bennett’s bid was for $294.12 each for a total of $5,000.

The city received one other bid that was based on a daily/hourly rate and requested the city provide insurance and assistance. Klages added that it was a “cost plus” contract. “Anything not included he can charge us for,” explained Klages.

“Those trees are huge and they’re not going to be easy to come out,” said Audist.

Council’s acceptance of Bennett’s bid was contingent upon him having a current license and insurance.

Councilmembers attending the Sept. 8 meeting were Mitch Corley, Bonnie Hizer, Klages, Konopacky, and Bryan Owens. Not present were Rachel Marrin, Richard Long, and Harold Dally.