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South Charleston City Council discusses athletic fields, library board

Athletic facilities and the library board of directors were dominant topics at South Charleston's city council meeting.

Mayor Frank Mullens challenged city council to upgrade the athletic fields at Little Creek Park.

When the city built The Rock sports fields at the park in 1997, "we had the best facilities in the state," Mullens said. "We're not the best any more. Kenova has Astroturf on their Little League field. A game there was televised on ESPN. Boone County has a turfed field."

Mullens said South Charleston should install artificial grass on one baseball field, one softball field and one football-soccer field. Other fields would remain natural grass. That way, no matter what surface children might need to practice or play on, it would be available.

"This is my vision," Mullens said. "We need to zero in on this. I think it's important to our kids."

It's also an economic development issue, he said. The Little League state tournament held at Little Creek Park last week helped fill several of the hotels in the city, he said.

The mayor challenged the council's Parks Committee to figure out how to pay for the improvements.

Mullens' comments came Thursday evening, when the council chambers were filled with members of the South Charleston-Dunbar Youth Soccer League.

The city assisted the league with team entry fees for the FestivALL soccer tournament, held recently at the Trace Fork soccer complex. Colleen O'Leary, speaking on behalf of her fellow soccer players, thanked the city for its support.

Six of the league's teams participated in the tournament. Four of the teams advanced to the championship match in their respective age group. The U10 Orange Heat team won the girls' U10 Travel Division and the U10 Barracudas won the U10 Boys Recreation Division.

Regarding the South Charleston Public Library Board of Directors, Mullens said that after Councilwoman Meg Britt was appointed to the board, "she brought some things to my attention. Some things were done by the board she was not privy to when they went into executive session. Unfortunately, there were times she felt left out."

Mullens said Britt and Councilman James Sibold were made ex officio members of the board, "and we made sure they had full voting rights. Unfortunately, at the next meeting of the board, they were attempting to upgrade their bylaws and one update was to not allow council members to have a voting role. We reacted and had a meeting last week. They acknowledged the fact they were incorrect."

The city's elected officials are the people who are ultimately responsible to the taxpayers, Mullens said. "Your mayor was his normal blunt self" at the meeting, he said. "It was initially a pretty serious scenario to the point of talking about getting rid of the board and taking it over.

"I thought they were very understanding, very apologetic," he said. "I believe it was a misunderstanding, not done with malice. We're all on the same page now."

Patricia Brown, who became library director earlier this year, said one of her goals upon arriving in South Charleston was to update the library's bylaws.

"I apologize," she said to council. "When I was doing the bylaws, I did not have access to city council. I did not know this ordinance had been in existence and some of our board members were not aware. I'm ashamed to admit that. But our communications has improved. We did not do it intentionally.

"I do apologize to council members, our board and community, and I will work to make sure this does not happen again."

Also during the meeting, council approved Mayor Mullens' appointment of Mellow Lee to the library board. Lee takes the seat previously occupied by Phillis Shawber, who died earlier this year.

In other action, council:

  • Gave a round of applause to Council President Dayton Griffith, who attended his first meeting in more than six months. Griffith has been dealing with health issues.
  • Approved the closure of Sixth Avenue to the Mound and D Street from Oakes to Ashby for Summerfest, which will be Aug. 13-18.

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