The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 2, 2013

Conneaut council doesn’t jump to reopen skate park

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  Extreme athletes in Conneaut may be without a city-owned venue to sharpen their skills this year.

Members of City Council will be asked to examine the municipal skate park at the east end of Jefferson this month to evaluate whether the controversial site should be reopened. At Monday’s finance/ordinance committee meeting, Councilman-at-Large Neil LaRusch — who chairs the panel — asked council to inspect the park before the next meeting in May.

The park, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has recently been a lightning rod for controversy. The park’s ramps, rails and other gear is in poor shape and would need to be repaired or replaced., officials have said. The city also pays to provide a security alarm at the facility.

The park, meanwhile, has figured in numerous complaints about crime and suspicious behavior.

Members seemed to think the park should remain closed until the safety of the equipment is confirmed.

There is a chance council may delay a decision to see if the pending demolition of a vacant, dilapidated house that abuts the park makes a difference in the crime situation. Police and others have said the house is used as a hiding place for kids. The house sits atop the city’s demolition hit list and could be razed within the next few weeks.

In other business, committee members continued to tweak a pending occupancy permit program that would require inspections of houses and apartments before they are sold or rented. At issue is the list of items an inspector would examine. Officials want to keep the list simple and focus on basic health and safety items, such as electrical service, hot/cold running water and structural integrity.

“A lot of it falls in line with the International Property Maintenance Code,” which the city follows for much of its enforcement issues, LaRusch said.

City Manager Tim Eggleston took it a step further.

“A lot is just common sense stuff,” he said. “We’re not asking people to upgrade, but maintain.”

Eggleston and Deanna Gates, Conneaut’s planning/zoning manager, will continue to fine-tune the checklist.

Meanwhile, a special meeting of council slated for late Monday afternoon was rescheduled for lack of members. The meeting to consider an ordinance to authorize Eggleston to submit a Community Housing Improvement Program application will now be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The application must be postmarked Thursday to meet a filing deadline.

The CHIP program could provide the city $400,000 to make emergency and regular repairs to substandard houses. Unable to attend Monday’s special meeting were Doug Hedrick (Ward 1), Richard McBride (Ward 3) and Thomas Kozesky (Ward 4).