Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Representatives from Ohio Little League District 11 met with New Boston Village Council during a council meeting Tuesday evening to discuss a possible contract agreement with the village in which Little League would install new fields and equipment at Millbrook Park in exchange for Little League having control of the fields with limited public access.
District 11 includes 18 Little League teams from southern Ohio, including New Boston/Sciotoville (collectively called NewVille), Waverly, Jackson and Oak Hill.
“What we are proposing is to take care of the ball parks down here for certain days starting in April, and Little League season usually lasts until the end of July. Some goes into August. We’re wanting to do a lot of improvements with the permission of council,” said Don Rawlins, district administrator of Ohio Little League District 11.
Among the proposed improvements, Rawlins said they would like to build two new Little League fields in the lake bottoms next to the tee-ball field and the NewVille Little League would assume responsibility of maintaining the fields and cutting grass. In exchange for making these improvements, which Rawlins said would cost the league thousands of dollars, he said they would like to have exclusive access to them and limit public access for fear they might try to run off Little League teams or cause damage to the expensive fields.
Council explained to Rawlins that the park is a public area and they cannot, and will not, refuse the public access to any part of it. Organized groups must reserve use of the park to guarantee they get to use them, and council explained that there is a master schedule. The New Boston junior high and high school teams always get first pick of days on the schedule, and Little League gets second pick; then other groups can choose from whatever days are left.
Rawlins assured council that Little League schedule would not interfere with junior high and high school teams, which usually finish before Little League begins, and would not impede soccer teams that play in August after the regular Little League season is finished. The District 11 Little League (10- and 11-year-old) All-Star Tournament will be played in New Boston, though and Rawlins said it should not create a scheduling conflict.
“Unless you’re going into World Series, and I believe the last World Series team was New Boston in 1960, the World Series thing goes on in August and we will not need the fields in August at all,” Rawlins said.
Little League also asked for exclusive access to the concession stand and press boxes and said they would be installing new equipment that they did not want damaged or stolen. Rawlins said the village would also keep a key to these areas, and assured they would not interfere with junior and high school teams that typically setup outside the concession stand anyway.
Council was still skeptical to allow the league to maintain the park schedule, and Rawlins threatened to move Little League out of New Boston if this was going to cause a hassle.
“We’re going to take care of your fields. We’re not going to deny anybody from using them. We’d just like for them to get with us so we don’t have a conflict of scheduling. I’ve been at this a long time. We want this for Little League and we’re not taking it away from anybody, but the money and the hard work these kids put into it, we don’t want somebody to come in and take it away from us either,” Rawlins said.
Council agreed with Rawlins that they don’t want the parks torn up either, but insisted they could still manage a master schedule without giving Little League exclusive access. If there is ever an instance of someone being on the field when they shouldn’t, or damaging the field, council said New Boston Police can respond and either make them leave or have them charged.
Another concern was that the lake bottoms where Little League proposes to build new fields is a holding pond for Munn’s Run creek and is prone to flooding. New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton explained that no permanent structures could be installed in the lake bottoms because they might be washed away in a flood and block the drainage tubes causing water to back up and flood the neighborhoods. Instead Hamilton said Little League will have to use removable fences and backstops, that can be carried away in heavy rain to prevent them from washing away and clogging the drainage tubes.
“If we have a flood and that stuff goes through there, who’s going to be liable when it goes through the tubes?” Hamilton asked.
Rawlins said they could use temporary installations, and he and Hamilton will be meeting soon to talk to the Army Corps of Engineers about what they can and cannot build in that field.
“If you can make it work, I don’t see any problem with building those two parks and I don’t see any problem giving you first dibs on those parks if you’re going to invest that money and build them. But if somebody wants to play on them, I would like for them to able to because it is a public park,” said Councilman Junior Williams.
Councilman Dan Fetty said he would not support any contract that limits public access to Millbrook Park, and he was further concerned about the legality of a public entity turning over the park to a private organization. Village Solicitor Justin Blume said they “were making this more complicated than it needs to be.” He said they should be able to manage a master schedule without signing a formal contract.
After nearly an hour of discussion, council agreed to let Little League make changes to the field and said they would help them enforce a master schedule to use the fields and keep the parks safe and clean — but council would not sign a formal contract handing control of the park to Little League.
The NewVille Little League season begins April 13 with a parade to the ball fields honoring the 1960 New Boston Little League World Series team.
New Boston Village Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month. The next regular meeting is March 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the Vern Riffe Community Center on Rhodes Avenue.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.