Whitehall seeks comments on parks plan

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Whitehall wants to improve its parks, and is requesting input from the residents, churches, schools and all stakeholders in the community.  

Deborah Edsall, managing director of Edsall & Associates, gave council on Nov. 27 a proposal of five aspects and components of a 12- step process to achieve that goal.

In October there was a kick-off meeting with Edsall and the Parks and Recreation Commission/Advisory Committee.  They reviewed plan objectives, established a project schedule, created focus groups for interviews, and  established dates for town meetings.

Interviews will be the weeks of Dec. 3 and Dec. 10.  The landscape architect will interview up to six groups of six to eight individuals.  The interview process will include the city’s youth.  

Edsall is preparing letters for the city to submit to the schools for parental permission to speak with children at all five of the district’s buildings.  

A survey will be sent randomly to residents in early January.  However, anyone who would like to give recommendations, may contact Parks Director Terry Gee at 863-0121  All responses will be welcomed.  

The first town meeting will be held at one of the elementary schools on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.  At that time the architect will give a summary of the interviews, creation of goals/policies, preliminary ideas and desires, review the existing facilities, programs and recreation services.  

Other town meetings planned will be March 27, April 24 and June 26, all at 7:30 p.m.  Locations will be announced.  The final presentation will be in July, with a date to be determined later.

Edsall has been visiting the parks during the analysis.  She noted that Whitehall has beautiful facilities, and in some aspects, has more to offer than other small communities.  

She noted that Community Park’s parking lot is a "sea of asphalt," and suggested adding some landscaped islands.

Gee said that he liked that idea.  It would not only offer more shaded places to park, but would slow traffic down from tearing through the lot.  

Other issues that will have to be addressed include the need for better handicap accessibility in the parking lots of Community and Bishop parks, as well as inside the buildings at Community Park.

Gee also pointed out that two of the activity buildings are no longer as functional as they should be, and will eventually need to be torn down.  He also wants to have a security system to more efficiently monitor the building inside and out, as well as the park grounds.

Councilwoman Leslie LaCorte remembered when there used to be a kiddy corral at Bishop Park.  It was a fenced area where young moms and grandparents could take their toddlers to play.  If a child bolted, they could not get outside of the fence and were easily retrieved.  

She also offered that she has an autistic grandchild, which has brought more awareness to her about autism.  She suggested more park programs for those special needs.

Councilman Mike Shannon remembered when he was growing up in the city, there were park representatives for programs at the neighborhood elementary schools.  

"We could walk to our school for supervised activities," said Shannon.  He chuckled as he reminisced about making pot holders for his mom.  

Gee also said it would be nice if one day he could have an assistant to help oversee programs, as an extension of his job, as well as coordinator for the senior center.  The seniors could still have their facility and their own board, but they’d have assistance with planning activities and trips, or teaching some classes.

Budget revisions

In other business, Auditor Kim Maggard presented some further changes to the 2008 proposed budget.  She has conferred with mayor-elect Wolfe to see what areas needed adjusting in order to suit his projected needs when he takes office.  

He asked for up to $49,000 to be added back in for the possible hiring of a community affairs coordinator.  

He also asked to add $25,000 back into the park fund, and $12,000 to the Service Department to employ part-time students in the summer months.  

Service Director Ray Ogden said that he was pleased to know that he could hire some students, saying that it not only helps his department out tremendously, but gives the youths a great opportunity.

The next council meeting will be Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Councilman Zach Woodruff was absent from the meeting.

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