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Strapped Jefferson County park gets cash boost from race track

July 14, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Although financially strapped Jefferson Memorial Park got temporary relief over the weekend with $13,000 in donations, park officials might have to consider turning the 13-acre facility over to county government if the problems persist, the head of the park's board of directors said Sunday.

Park officials might have to mull such a proposal if the park cannot get enough funding from the community to run the facility, said Chris Ott, president of the park's board of directors.

Jefferson County Commission member Greg Corliss said it's an idea worth exploring, but said the county needs to be careful about the cost of maintaining the aging pool.

This year, it cost $5,000 to open the pool in the southeast part of town off Mildred Street after broken pipes in the pool house were discovered and park officials realized the pool's vacuum system had to be replaced, Ott said previously.

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"We need to be careful about buying into something obsolete," Corliss said.

Ott talked about the future of the park after getting temporary relief for the park's troubles in the form of a $11,000 check from Charles Town Races & Slots.

Also on Sunday, Jimmy Pierson of the Jefferson County Youth Football donated $2,000 to help the park, Ott said.

Ott said the main concern among park board members is meeting payroll for pool employees this year. But the $13,000 in donations should be enough to allow the park to meet payroll expenses for the rest of the season, Ott said.

Roger Ramey, spokesman for Charles Town Races & Slots, said track officials had been following the news of the park's financial troubles and decided to donate $11,000 to the park on Friday.

The track's donation came after the Jefferson County Commission decided against a proposal by Commissioner Dale Manuel to donate $11,000 of the commission's slot machine money to the park.

Ramey said Sunday that track officials felt it was important to donate the $11,000 since local residents will probably be depending on local recreational facilities more in light of high gas prices.

When asked what the park's long-term plans will be, Ott said the board of directors will probably have to "see if we can handle another year" like the current one.

The park is down about $16,000 in revenue from last year, and last year, revenues were down about $3,000, Ott said last week.

Local officials said there have been financial problems with the pool over the years, caused in part by private pools nearby that detract from its usage.

If financial problems persist, county takeover of the park could be an option, Ott said.

Although Corliss was open to the idea and said the commission would have to get staff input on the matter, he questioned whether the park's pool would meet the needs of the county.

Corliss said the county needs an Olympic-size pool for youth swim teams to use, but the Jefferson Memorial Park pool is not that size.

"It's OK to get your feet wet," Corliss said of the local pool.

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