Businesses pledge $16K to park project

COLUMBIANA — Local businesses have already pledged $16,000 toward the next phase of the major Harvey S. Firestone Park improvement project.

Pat Tingle, chairwoman of the Columbiana Restoration and Beautification Committee (R&B) told the city’s park board on Monday that the R&B sought donations from local businesses and so far it has been a success.

“We are about halfway through our list. It is encouraging,” Tingle said of the support shown so far for the project that will improve the existing tennis and basketball courts and add a pickleball court.

Tingle said Humtown Products and D’Lux Motors Inc. have both agreed to donate $5,000 each toward the project, with other pledges from the Dutch Haus and Farmers Bank so far.

Tingle then asked the park board about the relationship between the Columbiana School District and the park board, since the school district plays its football games at the stadium in the park.

The district is one of only two in the state that plays its games in a public park and leases the stadium from the city for a nominal fee in addition to paying utilities.

Tingle specifically wondered if there is any documentation that exists that outlines how decisions are weighted when it comes to public or school district use of the park.

Park Board President Dr. Ron Detwiler said there is not written documentation, and that those decisions are made informally.

“To put percentages on it would be very, very difficult,” he added.

Tingle also asked how many members on the park board are also from the school district, and how that decision is made.

Detwiler said that of the six members on the board, two are appointed by the school district. The remainder are appointed by council and the city manager, and that is the way it has been done for several years.

“The best qualified individual is selected to fill that seat. Whether they are employed by the school or whatever their interaction would be with the school is not really a fact. Unfortunately, or fortunately, so many of the school’s activities are in the park that it often seems like we are weighted in that direction, but we follow the procedures when it comes to the appointments, and the best individual is the one that is appointed,” Detwiler said.

Tingle did not voice opposition about having school district representation on the board, but was wondering how those decisions were made.

In fact, during the meeting Tingle invited park board member Nancy Tirpak to serve on the park project committee to have representation from the school, and also welcomed suggestions from the rest of the board, which includes the school district’s assistant athletic director Larry Baughman.

“The relationship the school and the park board has is excellent,” Detwiler said. “In the time that I have been here, there have been some pretty heavy issues that have come up and there has been nothing that we haven’t been able to discuss or settle without a compromise. We have an excellent working relationship between the school and the park.”

Tingle asked if the park board could look into how the other park in the state that shares its property with a school district handles that relationship.

Detwiler said that would be looked into.