July 4th events point up need for extra PA system

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Routine discussion of how a new public address system has been working well at the Greencastle Aquatic Center pointed the way to perhaps a bigger issue during the July meeting of the Greencastle Board of Park Commissioners.

In reviewing monthly claims, board member Cathy Merrell took note that the new PA system the board had previously approved for the pool had been installed. By all accounts, the new PA has been making it much easier for lifeguards to communicate with patrons, especially when announcing break time or other times when the pool needs to be vacated.

While that is all fine and dandy, it prompted City Councilman Steve Fields, who serves as Council liaison to the Park Department, to ask a question many people attending the fireworks celebration July 4 had been asking: “Is there not a PA system at the softball diamond?”

The answer, Park Director Rod Weinschenk quickly responded, is no.

At issue that night was a reported lost child just prior to the 10 p.m. scheduled start of the fireworks.

“A PA wouldn’t have helped,” Weinschenk said, adding that “nobody believed me, but I knew where he (the 10-year-old missing boy) was all the time.”

The youngster was one of four children who were momentarily missing in the fireworks throng that night, Weinschenk said.

The first was a two-year-old girl in a situation that appeared more like “her parents were lost,” the park director said. It was quickly resolved.

The second incident involved the eight- or 10-year-old boy lost just prior to the start of the fireworks.

Admitting it was “a tense situation for a while,” Weinschenk said when he turned on the softball diamond lights, the boy was there, waiting on the fireworks to begin with his sister.

Also, after the smoke had cleared form the finale, there was a report of two missing 11-year-old girls, Weinschenk said, noting that everybody remained calm and waited a few minutes before checking at home for the girls.

“Sure enough,” he said, “one of the girls had walked home and the other went home with her uncle.”

The second incident was only partly the reason the fireworks were delayed by 15 minutes, the park director said.

The pyrotechnics people “didn’t think it was dark enough” at 10 p.m., he advised.

Back to the need for a PA system. Weinschenk said a combination of circumstances kept otherwise available PA systems from being employed when needed.

WREB, which broadcast live from the fireworks celebration, had just taken some of its equipment back to the radio station since the start of the fireworks was at hand, while Greg Hedge, who provides the sound system for the day’s musical entertainment, had also just packed up his equipment after the last performer had finished.

The Park Board took no immediate action toward getting a public address system for the softball diamond but left the door open for further discussion of the idea.

Overall, the Fourth of July “was another good event,” Weinschenk said of a day that began with the Rokicki 5K Run at 8 a.m. and ended sometime after 10:30 p.m. when the fireworks finale faded into the darkness.

“My recommendation to the Celebrate 4 Committee is we need more volunteers,” Weinschenk said. “My recommendation to the Park Board is we need more employees.”

The park currently has three fulltime employees -- Weinschenk, Maintenance Supervisor David Bault and Assistant Director/Aquatics Manager Erin Ray, a recent college graduate.

Weinschenk also again voiced the notion that the Fourth of July should be a “citizen-run event, not a city-run event.”

The City Park Department should be hosting the celebration, he said, with citizen volunteers running the many individual events.

Additional personnel and volunteers would make it easier to maintain restrooms and periodically empty trash barrels so there wouldn’t be heaping trash cans with refuse piled all around them by the time the fireworks end.

Meanwhile, mowing duties for park employees on properties outside of city parks also emerged as an issue impacting the time and manpower of the department.

City park employees routinely mow the grassy strip that divides Northwood Boulevard, triangles of grass like the one at Highfall and Shadowlawn avenues, downtown areas and City Hall.

”Mowing all the little places takes a large amount of your time,” board member Merrell noted. “It (Northwood) really shouldn’t be the Park Department’s responsibility. It’s a median between the streets.”

Councilman Fields agreed.

“Northwood should not be your responsibility,” he said, suggesting that Northwood and downtown duties should be eliminated and “leave the actual parks and trails to your department.”

Fields reminded the board that “16 years ago the Park Department wasn’t responsible for the Big Walnut Sports Park either.”

In fact, Weinschenk, who took over the job back then, said city park land consisted of 38 acres at the time.

“It’s now 140 acres and we mow most of it once a week,” the director said.

And the department couldn’t get that done, he said, if it weren’t for volunteer Bob Harbison, the retired longtime former school administrator, who mows about four hours a day at the sports park.

Thinking a bit outside the box, ex-officio board member Wayne Lewis wondered about the possibility of outsourcing some of the mowing responsibilities at small parks and boulevards, for example, instead of adding more personnel.

The cost may be similar, he reasoned, but the city wouldn’t be paying benefits because mowing contractors, not new city employees, would be doing the work.

No action was taken on the mowing duties question or additional employees issue.

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  • sounds like we finally have park board members starting to address SOME of the issues the park has had for a long time . Lets see if they keep it up.

    -- Posted by small town fan on Wed, Jul 12, 2017, at 9:11 AM
  • Just because the park board members see there are problems with the park, doesn't mean anything will be done. Softball teams are dwindling because no one cares anymore. You used to go to the park any given day and watch a good game. Now the teams are leaving town due to problems that never get taken care of. Such a shame. We need people that truly care about our park and bring life back into it.

    -- Posted by Falcon9 on Thu, Jul 13, 2017, at 5:49 PM
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