Anna Council debates unlocking ball fields

By Joshua Baethge
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
The Anna City Council issued a proclamation designating July as Parks and Recreation Month. The entire department was recognized during the June 22 council meeting. From left: Matt Lewis, Marc Marchand, Dalan Walker, James McCoullough, Cody Tyson, Elise Bowers, Jeff Freeth, Caitlin Stone, Leah Kelly, Julie Owen-Shivers and Mayor Nate Pike.

During the June 22 Anna City Council meeting neighborhood services director Marc Marchand discussed feedback he’d recently received regarding the lighted baseball and softball fields at Slayter Creek Park.  Those athletic fields are currently locked when not in use. Teams wishing to use the facilities must reserve them ahead of time and pay a small fee. 

Some residents want to see them unlocked so that they can use them when games are not being played.  However, city officials fear that this could lead to vandalism and poor playing conditions. 

“I will tell you that from my professional experience, the reasons to keep them locked typically outweigh the reasons to unlock them,” Marchand said.  

As a compromise, the Parks Advisory Board has suggested unlocking two of the four fields for the next four to six weeks. This would give city staff time to evaluate how they are used and what damage is caused.  It was an idea Councilman Kevin Toten partially agreed with, suggesting that fields be unlocked on a rotating basis one or two days per week. 

Mayor Nate Pike was more skeptical, saying he was sure that the fields would be quickly damaged.  He then added that he also understood where those who wanted the rules changed were coming from. After hearing about the issue for five years, he said he was ready to try unlocking the fields to see how things go.  However, he did so with the caveat that the city would not commit tax dollars to repeatedly fixing vandalism. Instead, teams would be forced to play in less than ideal conditions until repairs could be made in the offseason 

“It’s going to be a recurring problem, I can promise you,” he said. “They’re nice fields right now and they’re going to be run down” 

Councilman Stan Carver said he agreed with the mayor’s position.  Mayor pro tem Lee Miller inquired about a digital locking system for the fields controlled by a phone app. Marchand seemed intrigued by the idea but said that the infrastructure is not in place for that now. He was also not aware of any cities with that type of system in place.  

Councilman Danny Ussery inquired about other possible securing measures, but Marchand noted that the city does not have enough staff for a full-time Parks Department attendant at the fields. 

No formal vote was taken on the issue so it remains to be seen what policy changes actually go into effect. 

Party Block is in the House Tonight 

Also during the meeting, Neighborhood Services Coordinator Elisa Bowers gave a brief presentation showing off the city’s new “block party trailer.”  The truck with “fun is how we roll” printed on the side is available for neighbored groups to reserve.  Bowers says it has plenty of things to ensure a good block party including large tables, chairs and games.  There’s also a dolly to help with unloading everything. 

“Really all you need is some food, some beverages and maybe a little music and you can have a great party all night long…until the noise ordinance kicks in at 9:00,” she said.