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Bingo players draw complaints from neighbors

January 20, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

HALFWAY - Some residents living near the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway's social hall say they concerned about its bingo operation, some because they find it a nuisance and others because they feel it poses a safety problem.

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"My car has been hit five times by bingo players," said Pat Carnes.

Carnes, who lives across from the social hall, said the bingo games, played four times a week, bring numerous cars to the residential community, creating parking problems, litter and a hazard to pedestrians.

Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway President James Kimble said he had not been aware of the community's concerns about the bingo players but is willing to talk with residents to find a solution.

"We are community-minded. If there's a problem we will act," said Kimble.

The company runs the bingo games from its Lexington Avenue social hall, which seats nearly 200 people but has no parking lot.

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Players park next door in the fire company's lot and along the surrounding residential streets. Bingo is played during the day on Wednesdays and Sundays and in the evening on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The fire company would like nothing better than to move its social hall, said Chief Joe Kroboth.

The fire company is seeking other locations for the social hall, and has created a search committee, but has had little success because of Halfway's dense population, he said.

"There's just not much available land," said Kroboth.

In 1997, the company made an offer to purchase the vacant Moose Lodge building on Downsville Pike but couldn't afford to buy the building and renovate it.

Meanwhile, to help offset problems, the company does such things as remove snow piles to keep parking spots open, he said.

Halfway knows that its bingo operation can be troublesome for residents but the games make money for the company and are key to its survival, Kroboth said.

Halfway has used bingo proceeds to maintain and purchase equipment and fund a $2 million renovation and addition to its fire hall.

"Without bingo we would fail to exist," he said.

In the 25 years she has lived in Halfway, Carnes said she has been cursed at by players and once saw two women engage in a fistfight over winnings near the social hall.

She said she has to clean up soda bottles and wrappers from her lawn and frequently is unable to find a parking place on the street because the spaces are filled by bingo players.

Carnes said she has appealed to members of the company and the Washington County Commissioners with little success.

"I know they need their bingo to run the fire company but something has to change," said Carnes.

Tracy Lapole of Halfway said the bingo players are sometimes rude and some drive carelessly.

As a parent, Lapole said she is concerned for the children walking home from nearby Lincolnshire Elementary School and has seen at least one near miss.

Her biggest complaint is about the company's Wednesday bingo games, she said.

On that day the games let out around 3 p.m., about the same time as the elementary school.

"The cars are all rushing to beat the buses and it's dangerous," she said.

Many of the drivers stop in the middle of the roads surrounding the social hall to load and unload players, said Tammy Bailey, who's children attend Lincolnshire Elementary.

"There's barely enough room for two cars," she said.

Halfway parent Pam Ware also said she fears for the safety of the community's youngsters.

"It's dangerous for the children walking from Lincolnshire," said Ware.

Kroboth said the fire company is as concerned about the community's safety as its residents.

He said an attempt to address similar concerns about pedestrian safety was made a year ago when the fire company asked bingo players to wait until 3:30 p.m. to leave the bingo hall.

Changing the time of the games or the speed with which the numbers are called are two things the company would consider, he said.

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