Vienna looks to make improvements at city park, money is limiting factor

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 9/21/22

VIENNA —The members of the Vienna City Council, city employees and a concerned citizen recently had an earnest discussion about needed improvements at the Vienna City Park. The main take-away …

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Vienna looks to make improvements at city park, money is limiting factor

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VIENNA —The members of the Vienna City Council, city employees and a concerned citizen recently had an earnest discussion about needed improvements at the Vienna City Park. The main take-away from this discussion, which was at the September council meeting, is that the availability of money is the primary factor limiting these improvements.

Lori Hayes of Vienna, spoke to the council at the meeting. She said there has been a lot of talk about the baseball field. There are field lights that have been out all summer. She asked what parents of ball players can do to get the lights fixed as they have not been able to have night games.

The batter’s box at the baseball field is sunken as well.

Hayes also questioned getting a grant to build a new concession stand and new restroom facility at the park. 

About the softball field, she said more seating is needed there. She said parents are willing to help. 

Utilities Superintendent Shon Westart said Gascosage Electric Cooperative is coming to work on the lights. They had hoped the coop would be in Vienna last week, but they have agreed to do it and the city is just waiting at this point. He explained there are nine lights on one pole and one ballast is bad and it is blowing out the bulbs. Westart said each of the bulbs has to be checked. It costs about $1,000 to rent a lift and so they are waiting for Gascosage to find the opportunity to come to Vienna.

Hayes said there is a baseball tournament scheduled for this month. She is concerned about students leaving school early to play baseball because they can’t play at night on Vienna’s field. Hayes said this is not good because education needs to come first. 

Mayor Tyler “TC” James said, “It all boils down to money.” The council has talked about building a new concession stand for years. They talked about charging teams a fee for playing on the fields, but didn’t really want to do that. But, it may need to be revisited, he said. It was noted there was something to do with a grant that said the city can’t charge people to use the park. Hayes said they could maybe charge $10 per child to play on city fields. South Ward Alderwoman Brenda Davis said her concern with that is for those kids who want to play but may not be able to afford to do that. She said maybe the result of not charging “has put us here.” It was noted Maries R-1 School uses both fields and does not pay the city for the use. 

James said when they changed out the poles on the ball field at big expense, they asked the R-1 superintendent who said no. Westart said he asked Superintendent Joe Dunlap and Dunlap told him the school couldn’t spend taxpayers money on the city park. Westart said instead the city taxpayers are paying for the school to use its ballfields. Vienna paid the entire expense of changing the light poles. 

Davis said when Les Darr was mayor, he talked about all the places he went to watch ballgames and how they charged. In the past there was some discussion about Vienna Eagles Booster Club members collecting money at the gate for ball games, but there were too few members in the booster club to do it. Hayes said the group is still small. She added most ballparks charge at the gate if the field is owned by the school, but this idea is worth some discussion.

Hayes said the restrooms are very old. Also the coach asked about some new bases. She asked if the city employees look at the equipment they are using and regularly replace it. 

Westart said the city buys the bases and they need to be put away at the end of the night. This is not always done and it causes a lot of damage to the equipment. The plugs have been ripped out and thrown against the fence and they can’t find them and they are gone. 

Hayes suggested bringing this up at the coaches meeting at the beginning of the summer ball season. James said they did this year. Westart said the T-ball, baseball, and softball fields all have their own carts for equipment. 

City Public Works employee Jim Sandbothe said coaches or team representatives are using 4-wheelers to drag the field and throughout the summer have been leaving a hump at third base, which has to be removed. Mayor James said the only people who should be dragging the field are the summer help and the high school. Hayes asked if they want the batter’s box filled in after the games. Westart said yes. James said they need a check list of field maintenance when the game is over. This would help. But, “money is the big issue.” They need lights all around the field. “We talk a lot but haven’t got any further than that.” The city is agreeable to help from the school or the booster club. Hayes said she is not sure what the booster club can do, but they can talk about it. 

Mayor James said the city is receptive to working with others in the community to improve the park. The city’s money can only be spent on certain things. The city’s fund one is what pays for park expenses. All of the city’s money is budgeted now. With grants the city has to meet a match, which it can’t always do. They have to get estimates before they know if the city can afford even the match. The mayor said there is nothing extra in the budget this year. 

Westart said everything they do is expensive. He got an estimate to repave two inches of asphalt at the park and it was over $100,000. Just a piece of equipment for the playground is $40,000. 

Davis said the city doesn’t see an increase in revenue unless property values go up or if more people shop in Vienna. 

Hayes asked about blocking off traffic when there is a ballgame as there are children running around. She said maybe even use cones. Westart said the senior center uses a drive through for people picking up meals. Sandbothe said if they put cones out, they’d be gone the next day. He commented the handicap parking in there by the senior center and closing the road through the park near the baseball field would mean losing the handicap parking area. Mayor James said they can look at the area with that in mind. He said money is the big thing, but the lights are important. He reminded them that the City of Vienna pays for everything at the park and makes zero money from it. It’s something the city does to support the community. 

Davis said right now, the city does not have an extra $100,000. She asked Westart what kind of expense they are looking at with the light work Gascosage will be doing. He said they will just disconnect a light. What the city needs to do is change to LED lights then they would not need as many of them. James said they need to do some research, but that takes time and effort. He’d like for someone to get on this and the city may be interested in a proposal. 

Hayes commented that it is good Gascosage is coming to fix the lights, but they need to look forward to the summer games which are coming. 

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