Softball, tennis groups lobby for grant

Marietta City Council’s finance and lands, buildings and parks committees heard testimony Tuesday from two local recreational groups seeking limited grant funding for improvements to the Lookout Park tennis courts or the softball fields at Buckeye Park.

Members of the Marietta Area Community Tennis Association and the Marietta City Softball Association are vying for $31,000 in Ohio Department of Natural Resources Nature Works Grant funding that the state has made available for Washington County.

City development director Andy Coleman plans to apply for a majority of the grant funding, around $30,000, but that money is only enough to fund one of the two project requests.

Barb Moberg, a member of the Marietta Area Community Tennis Association, told the committee members that the Lookout Park court surface is in need of repairs to keep it from deteriorating to the point that a total reconstruction would be required.

“It would cost an estimated $125,000 to completely resurface all four courts,” she said. “But the lower two courts (with the most damage) could be repaired for about $15,000.”

Moberg noted, in addition to the court surface repairs, a sidewalk meeting Americans with Disabilities Act standards would have to be installed to provide accessibility to the courts for handicapped individuals.

Coleman said that sidewalk and a concrete parking pad for access to the courts would cost another estimated $6,426.

Moberg added if there is enough grant money left after the surface repairs and sidewalk the tennis association would also like to have a water source and more lighting installed at the courts. She said there are also drainage issues that should be addressed as water may be causing some subsidence of the courts.

She added that Lookout Park is not located in one of the four city areas eligible for Community Development Block Grant funding, but the Buckeye Park ball fields in the Norwood area would qualify for CDBG monies and those funds could be tapped for the proposed softball association project.

Jim Farley, president of the softball association, said the group needs funding for elevated lighting at the Buckeye Park fields.

“It’s unfortunate that the grant money is so tight this year that we have to talk about this,” he said. “I would really like to have enough money to do both projects.”

Farley said the present height of the ball field lights is a safety concern during night games because balls often hit or are thrown higher than the level of the current lighting disappear from the players’ view.

“The balls go above the lights and you don’t know where they’re going to land,” he said. “We’re not asking for cosmetics. This is a real need. And last year the transformer for one of the fields was hit by lightning, so there is only one light on that field. You can’t see at night.”

The lighting would cost an estimated $13,500, but poles for the lights could add to the cost, noted Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward.

Farley said he believed the current lighting poles could be used by simply adding some extensions.

“We want the lights first and foremost for the safety of our players,” he said, adding that if there is additional grant funding left over, the fields could also use a scoreboard.

Farley also said the softball association has plenty of volunteers available to help with the project.

Coleman said the softball field project would also require the installation of two ADA-compliant sidewalks for accessibility from the parking area, but the concrete for those walkways would only cost an estimated $626.

He added that the local match for the ODNR grant would be around $7,500, which could be covered by in-kind materials and services provided on either of the projects.

Vukovic said it had been several years since any work had been done on drainage issues at the Lookout Park tennis courts.

“I do think that needs to be addressed again soon,” he said. “We also spent $19,380 in 2007 to resurface the two upper courts at Lookout Park. If we can do something now we may be able to safe the courts before another winter passes. We don’t want city assets deteriorating.”

Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, agreed.

“If we’re going to do one or the other of these projects, I think we should take care of the courts up here because this area is not eligible for CDBG funds,” he said.

But Vukovic noted the CDBG money may not be available for the Buckeye Park ball fields because a large portion of the annual entitlement from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development goes for installation of ADA-compliant curb ramps during the city’s yearly asphalt paving program.

In the end, no decision was made as to which project would be recommended for the grant funding because the committee members wanted more discussion of the issue before making a final determination.

Coleman said the deadline to apply for the ODNR grant is May 1.

In other business Tuesday, city engineer Joe Tucker submitted a request for change orders totaling $32,448 for the second phase of the Armory Square renovation project that’s currently under way.

Tucker said the change order includes $5,628 for replacement of two purlins (roof supporting timbers); $16,860 to install a tongue-and-groove ceiling into which screws from new roofing could be anchored; and $9,960 for plywood to cover wall coping.

Vukovic said there is enough money in the Gutberlet Armory fund budget to cover the requested change order, but it would leave only about $17,000 remaining in the fund.

The committee members agreed to support legislation approving the change order.

Also on Tuesday, members of council’s planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee agreed to develop a resolution supporting an application to Heritage Ohio by ReStore Marietta to have the Pioneer City designated as a Main Street community.

ReStore Marietta director Mallory Greenham said the application would be filed in April.