Bob McCollum wants Johnstown to annex the Belt Field Sports Complex, bringing it inside the village limits.

Bob McCollum wants Johnstown to annex the Belt Field Sports Complex, bringing it inside the village limits.

McCollum is president of the Johnstown Youth Athletic Association (JYAA).

Belt Field, a nonprofit facility at 281 W. Jersey St., sits on 23 acres and is home to baseball, softball, tee-ball, soccer, football, and basketball fields for children ages 5-12.

Even though it has a Johnstown address, the privately owned property sits outside village corporation limits.

McCollum asked village council members on Feb. 21 to annex the property - primarily to address an influx in crime at the park complex.

"One of the reasons we really want to come into the city is to get some police protection up there," McCollum said. "We've just been inundated with vandalism at the park. …We have swastikas that have been painted on the walking path. I've personally found meth pipes, marijuana pipes."

The concession stand has been broken into several times, he said.

McCollum said the Licking County Sheriff's Office does a good job of answering calls, but he said the officers are stretched so thin that it typically takes up to an hour for them to arrive at the park.

"I'm all for it, because someday we'll be one big city of Johnstown," council member Sharon Hendren said. "So when we go annexing in slowly, it's better than taking it all in at once."

McCollum said one concern about annexation is whether the JYAA would be forced to pay the cost of paving the complex's currently unpaved parking lot in order to meet village code.

"We don't have a lot of money, so we're looking at what it would take cost-wise," he said.

McCollum wondered whether the parking lot as it is would be eligible to be grandfathered in under the code.

Mayor Sean Staneart said he believed it could.

"As long as it exists before you bring it in, and I think you definitely fit the definition of that," Staneart said. "The only exception would be if you expanded it any farther you would have to do any additional parts that would be paved."

Village Manager Jim Lenner said McCollum could start the annexation process. If it is approved at the county level, council would vote on a resolution to annex the property.

"I think it's only $400 through the (Licking County) commissioners to start the petition process for annexation," Lenner said.

McCollum said he'd "love" to eventually have the parking lot paved. He asked that if anyone knew of any grants to help pay for the project, they let him know.

Also at the Feb. 21 council meeting, Johnstown resident Tony Shaub of Sportsman Club Road asked council to fix the ice skating rink at Bigelow Park.

Shaub said he's concerned for children's safety after noticing wooden boards sticking up a few inches on the north side of the rink.

"If a kid were to fall and land on that, he'd get seriously wounded," Shaub said.

Councilman Chris Speck said Downtown Johnstown, Inc., not the village, is responsible for the skating rink. But since Speck is president of the organization, he addressed Shaub's concerns.

"I built the ice skating rink. I'm probably going to take it down this week, but we'll do a better job next year," Speck said.

Council also approved hiring two new village employees.

Josh Belcher was hired as a third-shift police dispatcher. He began his job on Feb. 20 with a starting pay of $13 per hour.

Belcher is a village auxiliary officer, which Lenner said is a benefit to the village.

"If a problem does arise, he still does carry a gun while he's on duty, so we have another officer here in the building," he said.

Council also approved hiring a temporary wastewater plant operator. Service Director Jack Liggett said an employee is on temporary sick leave until April 1, and he needed a state-licensed operator to help with lab testing.

Liggett said he was able to get Allan Jakeway out of retirement to work five hours a day for three days a week. Liggett said Jakeway worked at the plant for 30 years.

Jakeway started his part-time position Feb. 20.