Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
NEW BOSTON — Members of Newville Little League and the New Boston Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) appear to have reached an agreement at Tuesday’s meeting of New Boston Village Council, regarding the use of the concession stand at Millbrook Park. After weeks of arguing about who should have access to the stand, which is owned by the village, the groups agreed this week to try to negotiate a deal wherein Newville Little League would open the stand for high school and junior high games and donate a portion of the sales to the PTO for the school.
The issue goes back to March 5, when Don Rawlins and Newville Little League came to village council asking them to sign an agreement that would allow them to make improvements to the fields and concession stand at Millbrook Park in exchange for the village limiting public access to those areas and giving little league first rights to play. The 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 agreed to let them make improvements, but would not sign a contract giving the little league preferred access to the public fields and concession stand.
During the regular village council meeting on April 16, resident Johnnie Steele said he was speaking on behalf of 15 New Boston students and their parents who are upset that the school has been locked out of the concession stand by Newville Little League. He explained to council that concession sales is how the high school teams pay for expenses like uniforms. Council told Steele it was their understanding that little league was going to make the fields and concession stand available to anyone who needed it, and they agreed to look into the matter.
New Boston Mayor James Warren reportedly spoke to New Boston School, and said he was told that the PTO has always run the high school concessions outside the stand and that the school has never asked to get inside. Furthermore, Newville Little League reported that nobody has ever requested access to the stand.
At that point, council considered the issue closed.
The issue returned, however, at the village council meeting Tuesday evening, which was moved to a larger conference room to fit more people who came to discuss the problem. Among those attending was Johnnie Steele, PTO President Lora Moore and members of the New Boston PTO, Don Rawlins and several representatives of Newville Little League, and New Boston High School Principal Melinda Burnside.
Steele spoke first, clarifying his earlier comments to council and making clear that he was not now, or ever, speaking as a representative of the school; but was only a concerned resident speaking up for the students and their families. He urged members of council to put the school and children of New Boston first. Members of council reminded him that there are New Boston children playing Newville Little League also, and reiterated the schedule priorities at the park — which allows the school first grabs at the field and stand if they request it.
New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton said neither the school nor the PTO have filled out the village form requesting use of the concession stand this year. That form, he said, is legally required for insurance purposes, and Newville Little League was the only entity to actually request it. Moore requested one of those forms during the meeting and Hamilton produced it immediately. He advised her to make their request early next year to ensure they can have access for the dates they would like next season.
Though speakers were asked to limit their time to only five minutes, the discussion continued for nearly 45 minutes and several times erupted into shouting.
Eventually members of New Boston Village Council mediated a compromise between the little league and the PTO. The two groups agreed to sit down with the school and a representative of the village, and try to negotiate a deal wherein the Little League would open the stand to sell concessions during high school and junior high games and donate a portion of their sales back to the PTO. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
The Little League made a similar deal to sell concessions at the Autism Awareness Day in the park on April 20 and donate a portion of their sales back to the Southern Ohio Autism Project. Mike Bell, a member of the Autism Project, was at the council meeting Tuesday for unrelated issue, but told council he was very pleased with the agreement they made with Little League and that they raised more money for autism that way than they could have raised on their own.
After the issue appeared to be settled, Moore stood once more and said that Sciotoville Little League teams are considering splitting from Newville Little League and she was considering starting a New Boston-only league. She asked that if a new league is created, would they have access to the field and concession stand. Council again reminded her to fill out the form and they would consider it. Moore said they did not want to create a league if they had no place to play, and council said they would not consider the request until the league has been created.
A spokesperson for Newville Little League told the Daily Times they are not aware of any teams splitting from their league.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.