Van Harlingen

Mansfield City Council 3rd Ward representative Jon Van Harlingen successfully proposed amending skate park legislation Tuesday evening. Council approved appropriating $55,000 for playground equipment at Maple Lake Park and will consider $135,00 to $150,000 for the skate park after giving the issue three public readings, starting when council meets again in August.

MANSFIELD -- Mansfield City Council unexpectedly didn't vote Tuesday night on a proposed $200,000 project to build a skate park and replace playground equipment at Maple Lake Park.

Instead, council members elected to follow 3rd Ward Councilman Jon Van Harlingen's suggested amendment -- appropriating $55,000 for the playground equipment and delaying the skate park vote until after three public readings.

Since council doesn't meet again until Aug. 6, any vote on the 3,000-square foot skate park would now not come until early September.

Council's decision came after 35 minutes of public comment and a one-hour caucus session.

Tim Theaker

Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker had proposed a skate park for Maple Lake Park in Mansfield. City Council amended his plan on Tuesday, choosing to spend $55,000 on playground equipment at the park, but delaying a vote on the skate park until after three readings. Council meets again in August.

Van Harlingen, whose ward includes Maple Lake Park, made it clear many of his constituents were not in favor of the park in their area.

"I will tell you right now, publicly. This is two blocks from me. We do have some very, very, very concerned citizens about how this thing's all going to play out," said Van Harlingen, who also chairs council's finance committee.

"I have some very serious concerns, also. I think three readings will be very helpful, but I will tell ... this is one of the few pieces of legislation (that) I have to sit down and listen to what my neighbors are saying and quite a few neighbors are saying what they gotta say. I am just gonna let council and everyone know that," Van Harlingen said.

David Falquette

David Falquette, who represents the 1st Ward on Mansfield City Council, helped to amend proposed changes to the city's demolition requirements on Tuesday evening. 

1st Ward Councilman David Falquette and 5th Ward Councilman Jason Lawrence cast the only votes against Van Harlingen's proposed amendment. 

"Even though this says it just showed up tonight, we have discussed this project (initially proposed June 4) a minimum of two times. In my mind, we are kind of already at the third reading," Falquette said.

"We have had a lot of positive comments. I do want this playground equipment, but I am concerned this delay is going to push you out of the construction season, if you want a skate park.  I would rather pass the legislation as it was before it was amended," Falquette said.

Aurelio Diaz

Mansfield resident Aurelio Diaz was one of several residents who spoke in favor of a proposed skate park at Mansfield City Council on Tuesday night. He said, "People who think its geared toward a demographic of kids who are hoodlums, or white, or rich .. they need to be informed because that's not what it is. It's a multi-cultural history that includes creativity and physicality. Why would we not want that?"

Of the 13 residents who spoke Tuesday night about the proposed skate park, most were in favor, though one was opposed and several others expressed concerns the city should maintain the parks it already has, before building a new skate park.

Parks and Recreation Manager Mark Abrams again told council that work on improving the city's parks is ongoing.

When the city went into state-ordered fiscal emergency in August 2010, the parks department was closed for four years.

The department was reopened after voters in November 2013 approved the PRIDE tax, which guarantees about $816,000 annually for the city's 30 parks each year.

Abrams said his department has saved about $40,000 annually for each of the last five years to allow for such a project.

The original proposal by Mayor Tim Theaker's administration called for spending $135,000 to $150,000 on the skate park and $50,000 to $65,000 on new playground equipment at the park, located on the city's west side.

Council approved on June 4 to spend $25,000 on design of the new skate park, a site that would be constructed by Spohn Ranch Skateparks in California.

Such a park is found in the Mansfield Rising (Page 28) downtown investment plan developed by local residents and unanimously approved by City Council earlier this year.

The Richland County Foundation helped fund the Mansfield Rising effort. Allie Watson, the foundation's senior community investment office, sent an e-mail to council Tuesday in support of the skate park plan.

"I believe the implementation of a skate park will be beneficial to the city as a whole and our youth in particular," Watson said in her e-mail.

Jean Taddie, who represents the 6th Ward, recommended the city complete its master plan for parks before approving the skate park. Abrams said the plan could be complete by the end of the year.

"My concern is putting the cart before the horse. We have experts out there surveying the community and putting together a plan on what our parks system could thrive and look like and we are trying to make a major investment before then," Taddie said.

Also on Tuesday,  the city announced the parks department and fire department will combine to host a "Pop Up Splash Pad" at North Lake Park on July 27 at 1 p.m., weather permitting. Refreshments will be provided by the IFFA Local 266.

Also, the parks department will host “Movies in the Park” at Burton Park on July 11, at dusk. The movie being shown is "Ralph Breaks the Internet." At this time, only ticket holders will be allowed to view the movie.

Questions should be directed to the City of Mansfield Recreation Department at 419-755-9856.

In other action Tuesday, council:

-- voted to appropriate $32,300 from the general fund to human resources for ID badge software update ($800), network ID card printer ($4,000), and union contract negotiations consultants ($27,500).

-- voted to transfer $25,000 from the general fund to the IT fund for contractual services.

-- approved proceeding with improvement of Glenwood Boulevard and Parkwood Boulevard by sprinkling, mowing, sweeping, cleaning, etc., the lawn strips in the middle of the two boulevards. Homeowners will again be assessed for the work.

-- approved the acceptance of $230,949.37 from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services for  METRICH operations.

-- approved vacating a portion of an unnamed alley between Rowland Avenue and Helen Avenue.

-- approved the purchase of easements on five properties needed for construction of a dry dam project at North Lake Park. Cost of these five easements will be around $47,000.

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