Council doesn't balk at addressing ballfield safety issues

Thursday, May 7, 2009

By Lisa Schlichtman

The Cassville City Council made a trip to the city park and ballfields Monday night to come up with a way to make the area safer for children during summer ball season.

The visit was prompted by a request from the Cassville Little League, asking the aldermen to consider closing the road that runs north and south through the park when ball games are being played.

Shari Rhea, vice president of the Cassville Little League organization, presented several options for the city to consider. One was to close the road using gates that could be erected at the corner of Seventh Street and City Park Road and near the batting cages. The other idea was to place temporary speed bumps along Seventh Street to reduce the speed of the traffic travelling through the park.

Rhea said the sound of squealing brakes is not an uncommon sound on ball nights and last summer a child was "bumped" by a car when the child ran across the street from between two parked cars.

"The safety of children is our number one concern," said Rhea. "The park is used all the time. The speed of the cars going through the park and the unattentiveness of the kids running into the streets is a real problem."

City aldermen seemed receptive to Rhea's request but stated that closing the street completely could cause a severe parking problem.

"Parking is at a premium down there," said Alderman Dennis Baker. "I'd like to see us block one end of the street and not the other, so people could still park in that area."

After continued discussion, it was decided that the council would need to visit the area in question before a decision could be made.

Mayor Tracy Holle reported on Tuesday morning that the council had decided to mount one gate at the intersection of Seventh Street and City Park Road. Through traffic would not be allowed from 4 to 10 p.m. on ball game nights.

The council decided against placing temporary speed bumps on Seventh Street. Instead, the Cassville Police Department will increase enforcement of the speed limit in the park, especially during ball season.

"We will start with that and see how this works and adjust as needed," said Mayor Holle.

The cost of erecting a gate would be minimal for the city. An unused gate is already in the city's possession so the only costs involved would be cement, a lock and labor. If the city would choose to pursue the temporary speed bump idea, it could cost as much as $1,000 per speed bump.

Rhea told the council that the Little League would be appointing someone to be in charge of opening and closing the gate on ball nights, and Mayor Holle suggested the Little League publicize the new street policy among parents.

While Rhea was present at the meeting, Mayor Holle talked about the conditions of the ball fields following the recent flooding and encouraged Little League parents to join the city in its effort to get the fields ready again for the summer ball season.

"Kenny (Schieler, parks superintendent) had planned to get the ball fields ready and now also has to open the pool," said Holle. "I would encourage Little League and anyone else in the community to help Kenny with the ball field preparation. He's doing everything he can, and it will take all of us working together to get the fields ready."

In other business conducted Monday night, the council:

* Gave the Cassville Senior Center approval to hold its 12th annual Miles for Meals walk-a-thon and rock-a-thon on the Cassville Square. This year, the city will be blocking off only the parking area immediately surrounding the square for the walkers. The event will be held Saturday, June 6 from 8 to 11 a.m. Linda Parker, senior center administrator, was present at the council meeting to submit the Center's request. She told the aldermen that the event raises about $10,000 each year in support of the home-delivered meals program. Annually, the Cassville Senior Center prepares and delivers 78,000 to area senior citizens.

* Approved a request to release Melvin Harwell early from his T-hangar lease at the Cassville Municipal Airport.

* Passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Holle to file stimulus fund applications on behalf of the city.

* Witnessed the mayor signing a proclamation in honor of the Cassville VFW Post and Ladies Auxiliary's annual Buddy Poppy Day fundraiser. This year, Buddy Poppy Day will be held on May 28. The local veterans have been selling Buddy Poppies for 37 years. Each year, the organization sells over 1,000 in less than four hours.

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