City of Columbus budget cuts to safety services and parks and recreation dominated the conversation at the Westland Area Commission (WAC) meeting.

City of Columbus budget cuts to safety services and parks and recreation dominated the conversation at the Westland Area Commission (WAC) meeting.

The commission met Nov. 19 at OhioHealth Doctors West Hospital.

Members not only voiced their concerns, but played host to Deputy Director of Columbus Department of Public Safety Dan Iangardella.

For the past several years, the commission has been advocating the need for a recreation center in the Westland area. Commission members were disheartened to learn severe budget cuts would be made to the city's parks and recreation department.

"If they are going to close 10 to 12 recreation centers, how are they going to build a new one?" commission member Ashley Hoye asked. "I think the brakes are on."

Commission chair Mike McKay said he asked city officials what the status was on the possibility of obtaining the mega rec center proposed for select portions of the city, the locations of which have yet to be determined.

"City council has approved the dollars to purchase acres of the Blausser property," McKay said. 'There is a good possibility the land will be purchased. The next thing is building the facility, but given the economy, they won't build (it) if they can't afford to operate it. It is going to take a while for the economy to turn around. I believe it will be at least another year before there is any action on this."

Commission member JoEllen Locke said purchase of the property, located at the southern portion of the intersection of Alton Darby Road and West Broad Street, was supposed to be a done deal.

Money from the last bond package a few years ago was earmarked for the purchase, she said. However, due to zoning issues it has been put on hold by city council.

"Once again I have called the attorney to see when we are getting this land," she said. "He said the Blaussers do want to sell it to the city, but the zoning part just hasn't happened yet. We need to get this land purchased."

Locke said the proposition of actually closing down recreation centers is scary. There are families who rely on those centers, she said.

"It may be a time where we turn to the community, churches and schools and ask them to step up to the plate," McKay said. "Now is the time, and hopefully we will see that."

Commission members also heard more bad news from Iangardella.

"Public safety remains the top priority of the city," Iangardella said. "Safety services represent 72 percent of the budget. Just like businesses, we are struggling to manage our resources."

Iangardella said the city has no plans to lay off any police or firefighters. However, the city will not be hiring any new personnel either, he said.

"With respect to uniformed personnel, we are not going to fund any additional recruiting classes," he said. "We usually have two recruiting classes due to attrition. Next year the number of officers and firefighters will be down."

It costs the city approximately $1.4-million to conduct a class of 20 recruits, Iangardella said. The city currently has approximately 1,850 officers and 1,510 firefighters.

"Our focus right now is to just get through 2009," he said. "We hope to get a head start and have good accountability, before we even think about 2010."

Csmithwestside@aol.com