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Weirton parks see decrease in revenue

September 20, 2012
By LINDA HARRIS - Business editor ( , The Herald-Star

WEIRTON - The city's park board is looking for reasons behind its declining revenues.

Board members on Wednesday were told year-to-date revenue is down about $22,000 from the same period in 2011.

While some of that is just a timing issue involving programming, park board Director Terry Weigel said membership sales also are down.

"That's the biggest thing," said Weigel, also the Ward 7 councilman. "We just had a discussion on advertising, promotional stuff we're going to do to push memberships."

Weigel said people are buying day passes, not memberships. "People aren't making that commitment," he said.

Adding to that, the city eliminated Community Development Block Grant funding that in the past had helped pay for passes for residents in need.

Board member Ed Bowman suggested they research "other alternatives for helping these people with passes."

"We're walking away from individuals who need help, and without some help they're not going to be able to come here," he said. "We need to figure out what, if anything, we can do to help them out."

Asked if they were "losing events" to the new Weirton Events Center, Program Director Kevin Elias said so far it's been minimal, though that could change if community residents start booking the outdoor venue for graduation parties and other such activities.

"It's an outdoor venue. Everybody wants an outdoor venue," he added. "But when there's a threat of rain, they're calling us" for a backup.

Weigel said he'd discussed concerns that activities traditionally booked into park board properties, including Millsop Community Center, might shift to the Events Center with Dan Greathouse, executive director for the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"At this point it's not significant," Weigel said. "But it's something he's aware of, and we'll continue to discuss it."

In other news, board members discussed ways to recognize the contributions of several long-time employees and made plans to add plaques and pictorial displays commemorating their efforts.

Members also were told updates to the community center's kitchen should be done by Christmas.

Bowman asked the Millsop staff to keep the lights on in the West Virginia room at least through midnight, saying they make the facility "look so good from the outside."

"At night, from the outside, the lights make all the pictures show up," he said. "I think it creates more curiosity for people to show up for events here."

The board also was updated on plans to hire someone to properly prepare and maintain Bowman Field, home to Weir High and Madonna's baseball teams. The Hancock County Board of Education already has committed $3,000 to the project, and Madonna High School, $1,500, with the possibility of another $500 down the road.

Board members are hoping "to get someone on board that will do the job" by March 1. Before then, however, they were told the board of education needs a document spelling out their plans to employ someone to do the work.

The board also has requested the help of the city's public works department in getting the surface of the Starvaggi Park tennis courts repaired.

"I've asked public works to submit a proposal to cut out and repave" portions of the surface that have cracked, Weigel said. "As it stands now, I would say the schools couldn't play on them."

Board member Deb Witkoski, meanwhile, applauded staff members for their efforts with regard to the Marland Heights 5K held in August.

"I've heard so many positive remarks about that event. I know you worked so hard," she said.

Beginning in October, the board will rotate meeting times on a six-month trial basis, alternating between morning meetings at 8 a.m. on the third Wednesday of the month and evening meetings at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month. The board's next meeting will be 7 p.m. Oct. 16.

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