City parks getting maintenance attention, Freese Fund projects being planned

By Matt Echelberry

June 12, 2014

Galion’s new disc golf course officially opens this Sunday, June 15, with an unsanctioned tournament. During this week’s mayor briefing, Tom O’Leary recalled that the project began as an idea shared during public meetings.

“This is a great example of people in the community doing something to improve the parks. The city will continue to listen to ideas on other things that can be done,” he added.

The course was a relatively low expense, paid through the recreation income tax. It is located at Amick Reservoir. However, the city will need to make some improvements to the reservoirs this season.

The mayor explained he drove through the reservoirs over the weekend and the alley ways running through both Amick and Amanns are in “awful condition.” The Service Department has finished its schedule for alley repairs and crews will start with the reservoirs’ alleys. Throughout the year, alleys all over town will be repaired.

As far as other parks and recreation projects, O’Leary noted that this year the city will pay off its remaining debt using funds from the Egbert M. Freese Foundation, as it has done since the city has been in fiscal emergency.

Beginning next year grant money from the foundation will resume being used for its intended purpose: Improvements to the parks, recreation activities and the general benefit of the community. This annual funding, in addition to the 1.1 percent recreation income tax, will equate to roughly $500,000 per year.

City officials will give a presentation to the Freese Foundation’s Board of Trustees in July about plans over the next several years. The mayor’s initial goal is to fund several low-cost projects that would be free for the community. Also, an annual formula is being devised in which some money of the grant money would be used for new projects and some would be reserved for the operation and maintenance of those projects.

Sarah Capretta, who became the new First Ward Council member last week, stopped by the office during the briefing. She is the third person to fill the First Ward seat within the last year, after the resignation of Andy Daniels last October and the resignation of Eric Webber in May.

Capretta did not participate in her first meeting until the following day, but she said she was ready to serve. “There’s a lot of complaining but no doing. I want to bridge that gap and focus on fixing problems,” she said of her goals.

In other news, the law director is working on two requests for proposal. One of them is for the Big Four Depot. O’Leary explained that the building is more likely to receive grants and tax incentives if it is owned by a non-profit or private entity, as opposed to the current city ownership.

The other request is for the feasibility of locating a hotel in Galion. With growing participation in youth sports, O’Leary said it makes sense to have enough hospitality to handle visitors who come to Galion for tournaments and events, instead of sending them to other communities.