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New soccer field deemed unsafe for play

April 27, 2010|By TRISH RUDDER
  • Morgan County Commission member Stacy A. Dugan found metal, glass and a piece of lead on the new soccer field that cannot be used for safety reasons.
Photo by Trish Rudder,

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Glass and metal parts found on a new soccer field have made it off-limits to Morgan County soccer teams.

And because the county-owned property was once a salvage yard, soil tests by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection agency will be done to determine if it's safe, county officials said.

"Field temporarily closed" signs posted at the field entrance were issued by Morgan County Commission President Brenda J. Hutchinson on Monday, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said commission staff is gathering information on how to proceed with soil testing and the costs involved.

Kathy Cosco, director of communications for the DEP, said Tuesday, "we don't want to jump to any conclusions until the soil is tested."

She said there are different levels of soil remediation, a process that can be costly, and said land used for recreation "requires a higher level of remediation."

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Commissioner Stacy A. Dugan said a soccer league parent told her last week that the new 60-by-100-foot regulation soccer field was full of glass and metal, making it unsafe.

She said she raised the issue at last week's Parks and Recreation Board meeting, and she and other board members looked at the field last Wednesday evening.

Parks and Recreation Board President Kenny Mason said Tuesday that he thought the field was a "possible problem" after he saw it.

He said the soccer teams are using the Morgan County Schools fields they used last year.

Dugan said when she talked recently with Berkeley Michael, who excavated the field in July 2008, he told her he hauled away car parts, axles and metal pieces, and that the property was once owned by Spioch Equipment Co.

Dugan said she began researching the property and found a March 1974 story in a local newspaper that Spioch crushed abandoned or junked vehicles on the property.

"My concern is the safety of the children" because the soil could be contaminated, Dugan said.

"Ongoing improvements are planned for the soccer field, which include a concession stand and possibly drilling a deeper well, so the water quality is a great concern at this point," she said.

According to court records, Morgan County -- through its Building Commission -- purchased the property in February 2006 from then-owners Harleigh and Virginia Seely. Glen R. Stotler, Bob Ford and Thomas R. Swaim were commissioners at the time.

The cost was $150,000 for nearly 10 acres, Hutchinson said.

"I had no idea it was a salvage yard," Swaim said Tuesday. "They are making a mountain out of a mole hill."

Swaim said the property, which is on the east side of U.S. 522 across from Morgan Field, home to the ball field complex, was purchased for use by Morgan County Parks and Recreation.

"It was decided later to be used for the two soccer fields. I think it was a good buy," Swaim said.

Dugan said she found more glass and other car parts, including a piece of lead, on the corner of the soccer field over the weekend.

She said she learned that Rhodes Body Shop was on the property after Spioch Equipment Co. closed.

Mason said when the field was excavated, only six inches of topsoil were removed and saved. After the field was leveled, the same soil was put back and raked. Then grass seed was planted, he said.

"Every time I think Parks and Rec is ready to move forward, we take two steps back, but I'm not giving up hope that the soccer field will be fixed for these kids," Mason said.

The second proposed soccer field is behind the grassy field. On Tuesday, metal pieces, old tires, a rusted barrel that leaked an oil substance, and other rusted and broken oil drums were visible on the field.

Bruce Beadenkopf, acting director of the county's Parks and Recreation department, said the soccer teams are raising funds to prepare the second field, which is smaller and would be used for practice.

He said the soccer field costs so far are about $44,000. Fundraising and a $25,000 grant left about $10,000, which came from the county commission.

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