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County says it's addressing recreation needs

October 05, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A group of Jefferson County officials responded Monday to complaints about a proposed $2.2 million community center they approved for the county and other issues related to recreation programs.

Last month, representatives from at least six sports youth groups in the county expressed concerns about the proposed community center at Sam Michaels Park, saying no one asked them for input about what is needed for local recreation programs.

They said they were surprised no one sought their opinion given the large number of youths they serve and the complex issues they face.

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The representatives of the youth football, basketball, soccer and cheerleading organizations say they struggle to offer the programs in the face of high liability insurance rates, equipment costs and dwindling field space, money and other issues.

One of the sports group representatives, Jimmy Pierson, said he thinks the community center could be designed differently to accommodate a larger portion of county residents.

Instead of building the community center at Sam Michaels Park, county officials could consider working with Jefferson County Schools officials to build the center at the proposed new high school at the Huntfield development, said Pierson, spokesman for Jefferson County Youth Football and Cheerleaders and the Jefferson County Umpire Association.

Members of the six youth sports programs said they plan to form an association and one of the primary duties will be to make their concerns known to the county commissioners.

Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss, one of three commissioners who voted in favor of building the community center, said Monday he welcomes input from the association about recreational needs in the county.

But Corliss said the criticism of the community center is "nonproductive" and said the facility is needed to provide space for expanded recreational programs in coming years.

Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission officials say the community center is needed at Sam Michaels Park because they are running out of space for programs such as gymnastics, arts and crafts and dance classes and sports camps.

Earlier in the year, parks and recreation commission Director Tim Barr said some parents take their children out of the county for gymnastics because of limited space for the programs in Jefferson County.

Barr, Corliss, County Commission President Al Hooper and Bill Hoak, chairman of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission, met Monday morning to respond to complaints from the youth sports organizations.

Donnie Dunn, who represents the Charles Town/Ranson Little League and Harpers Ferry Youth Basketball League, has said the community center probably will serve only a small part of the population.

Representatives of the youth sports programs say they serve more than 3,000 youngsters. Barr said Monday that the parks and recreation commission serves more than 3,500.

"There's too many half truths here," Hooper said, referring to the complaints from the sports groups.

Building the community center also will allow county officials to reach other segments of the population that could benefit from such a facility, Barr said.

Currently, no center in the county offers a place for senior citizens to participate in indoor walking programs or where youths can have a teen center, Barr said.

Corliss, Hooper, Hoak and Barr said recreational needs in the county are not being ignored.

Barr released a capital improvements plan that lays out a proposed timetable for funding for a youth soccer complex, a youth football complex and baseball fields at Sam Michaels Park.

Under the plan, the parks and recreation commission will push for $1 million in 2006 to build the soccer complex, lobby for $750,000 in 2009 for the youth football complex and push for $300,000 in 2014 for the baseball fields at Sam Michaels.

"We are planning ahead," Corliss said.

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