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Council balks, then talks about Henninger Field offer

July 24, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Henninger Field has been the home diamond of the Chambersburg Area Senior High School baseball team for decades, but the borough is now faced with coming up with an offer to the school district to counter one made by Greene Township.

Members of the Chambersburg Borough Council said they felt a three-week deadline for a proposal shows the school district is not seriously considering playing ball at Henninger next spring.

A letter from the district dated June 28 asked the borough for a written proposal, including renovations needed at the field, by this Wednesday.

"That kind of request has really put council behind the eight-ball," Borough Manager Eric Oyer said. "What we don't really know is what kind of improvements would be necessary" for the district to keep the team in town, he said.

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"If they want to take their bats and balls and go to Greene Township, fine," said Council President William McLaughlin. "I resent them, after 50 years, coming to us and saying they need a proposal in three weeks.

"It's obvious they don't want to play," Councilwoman Sharon Bigler said. "They have no intention of talking to us in any kind of good faith situation."

The borough has a long list of needed recreation improvements that would cost several million dollars and require a bond issue to fund, Oyer said. The district letter came with an attachment from a consultant stating that improvements to the field, bleachers, lighting and other facilities could cost in excess of $750,000.

Last month, Greene Township offered the district use of a field it is building at its park. The township was proposing a 10-year agreement beginning at $15,000 a year and indexed to inflation.

"Now they think they have a bargaining chip they can shove down our throats," Councilman Robert Wareham said. Councilman Allen Coffman said the district had failed to live up to previous agreements it had made with the borough over recreation issues.

Herb Dolaway, the borough's superintendent of recreation, outlined improvements that could be made to Henninger Field over the next two or three years for about $260,000, including new light poles, playing field upgrades, an 8-foot outfield fence and warning track and bathroom improvements.

In later phases, the borough could improve or replace the back stop and dugouts, add handicapped accessible seating, new bleachers and expanded bathrooms.

Dolaway said the borough has charged the Trojans about $5,000 a year to cover its costs for maintaining the field.

The council instructed the borough administration to come up with a matching offer to present to the district.

"We're interested. You give us $15,000 a year and we'll fix up the field," McLaughlin said.

Although the district asked for a proposal by July 25, it subsequently canceled that workshop meeting and Superintendent Joseph Padasak said the board could wait until August to hear the borough's offer.

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