When Bexley City Council reconvenes from its summer recess Aug. 8, members are scheduled to further discuss whether to authorize a $289,502 expenditure from the city's recreation fund for the development of the Schneider Park athletics fields in the Ferndale Place/Mayfield Place area in southwest Bexley.
At the council's June 27 meeting, Mayor Ben Kessler reported that bids for the project came in higher than expected, due to work that would remediate contamination from the site's former use as a landfill. The remediation has raised the cost of developing the fields from $227,552 to $551,502, Kessler said.
The fields' development originally was to be paid for with $100,000 from the city's recreation fund, an $81,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and an $81,000 grant from the Bexley Community Foundation.
Council President Tim Madison said he cannot support spending the additional $289,502 to develop the athletics fields, not only based on the cost and environmental issues but also because of crime problems in the Ferndale/Mayfield area.
"I feel that the process of placing soccer fields there before resolving the continual crime is backwards and I will not support placing our kids in harm's way," Madison said in an email he sent to fellow council members on June 28.
"Further, it is my belief that the environmental contamination issue of Mayfield-Ferndale must be addressed as a whole and not piecemealed. What if we spend $550,000 now to later determine that the whole area must be condemned and/or remediated?"
Kessler said development of the athletic fields is part of an ongoing effort to revitalize and bring development to the Ferndale/Mayfield area. He noted that the Bexley Community Garden has been in the area since 2010 without any reported safety issues.
"We can't talk about safety in a vacuum. A lot of kids live right next to this park today," Kessler said. "Kids growing up on Ferndale, Mayfield, Sheridan and the surrounding areas need a safe place to play.
"With the absence of greenspace in the area, play options often mean biking and basketball in the street. This park plan calls for fields and a playground, and will provide an important and meaningful amenity for the families that live in the immediate area," he said.
Developing the Schneider Park athletics fields has included extensive environmental studies, said Michael Price, recreation director.
"Through this process, we have identified the environmental issues through a phase I and phase II environmental site assessment," Price said.
"We consulted with environmental engineers from Burgess and Niple, where they assessed the results from the phase I and II studies, and recommended engineering controls to ensure that the project met recreational standards for remediation of the contaminants," he said.
Developing the athletics fields is part of an effort through the city and community organizations to combat crime and provide positive alternatives for those who live in the Ferndale/Mayfield area, as well as all Bexley residents, Price said.
"The community garden, Developmental Assets Resource Network and their organization's work in the area, including the annual block party, and efforts by the schools and recreation department to assist with transportation for students that live in the area are all pieces of the puzzle that will help improve the area through opportunity," he said.
Proceeding with the Schneider Park athletic fields was identified as a priority by the steering committee that oversaw the Southwest Bexley Master Plan Update, which was completed this spring, said Councilwoman Lori Ann Feibel, who led the committee.
"I just really believe it's so much more than just a soccer field; it's just the beginning of changing this area," Feibel said.
"Our kids live down there, those are our kids. We have to make it safe for them. Having a presence for them is what we need to do.
"That was very clear from the steering committee of the framework plan. They were very clear that something needed to change. We can't do nothing," she said.
Council's Aug. 8 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.