City Council to vote on Douglass Park renovations

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 | 6:09 p.m. CST; updated 7:20 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 13, 2009

COLUMBIA – Each summer, about 200 children ages 5 to 10 practice the fundamentals and play baseball games for a league organized by the city and the Douglass Athletic Association. They play at Douglass Park, and the ball field there is in line for significant improvements.

“Anything that will make their experiences safer and more enjoyable is a good idea,” Camren Cross, a recreation supervisor for the Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation.

In addition to resurfacing the field, the city has proposedseveral other improvements to the baseball diamond along with the pool area.

The measures, which the City Council is expected to vote on Jan. 20, calls for the extension of fences along the foul lines, a concrete surface for the batting cage, widened walkways and a permanent patio for large gatherings.

In addition, the wading area at Douglass Pool will be replaced with a “sprayground” or playground where timed fountains squirt water.

“We are committed to high-quality parks throughout the city,” Paul Sturtz, First Ward councilman, said. He expects approval of the proposal after the final public hearing Tuesday.

The total cost for both projects is estimated at $255,000 with $200,000 proposed for improvements to the pool and the remainder going toward renovation of the baseball field.

Nearly half the cost will be covered by a federal Community Development Block Grant. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the remaining $130,000 has been approved by voters through their support of the city Park Sales Tax and that the money has been allocated since October.

While expanding the pool would require additional funds for lifeguards and maintenance, Hood said, the sprayground does not require additional funds for lifeguards and minimal maintenance. Motion sensors will turn on the fountains only when people are present, saving electricity, Hood said.

The ball field project also includes additional lighting, tree-trimming and conduits for video cameras designed to improve security at the park. "Funding for these items depends on how much the grading and fill soil of the baseball field will cost," Hood wrote in a memo to the City Council.

“From our perspective, we believe the best way to discourage negative activity is to encourage positive activity,” Hood said.

Once the proposals have been approved, the city must take bids from contractors. The ball field is expected to be completed by May 1. Construction of the sprayground is not expected to begin until the end of the 2009 swimming season, with the new feature to be available in the spring of 2010.

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Ray Shapiro January 13, 2009 | 7:11 p.m.

“We are committed to high-quality parks throughout the city,” Paul Sturtz, First Ward councilman, said.
Once the proposals have been approved, the city must take bids from contractors.
“From our perspective, we believe the best way to discourage negative activity is to encourage positive activity,” Mike Hood said.
IMHO we should be spending money on a Columbia Police Department kiosk at Douglass Park before giving money to contractors.
From my perspective, Mike Hood is wrong. Columbia's inner city youths already have many positive activities to choose from. Many of these "black youths" will continue to make criminal choices until their parents, culture, peers and teachers impact their behavior.
Paul Sturtz is a pandering politician and Mike Hood is in cohoots with Bill Watkins.
This is just a continuation of the old "Ray Beck" mentality which puts money into the pockets of "Bob the Builder" and does little to address our town's core problems and issues.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 14, 2009 | 2:19 a.m.

A year’s worth of headlines (2008)
Douglass Park has been in the news this year. A shooting April 16 injured two men. An 18-year-old man and a 25-year-old man sustained gun shot wounds in the leg and ankle, respectively. The Columbia Police Department was unsure if the fight was gang-related.
A June 12 stabbing sent two men to the hospital. The police found a broken bottle and fresh blood under the larger shelter near Rogers Street. That same night after Twilight Festival, a fight broke out among minors on the corner of Ninth and Walnut streets. The disturbance eventually grew into a crowd of 100 to 150 people and moved behind Douglass High School before police were able to disperse it. Police heard but could not confirm that someone was carrying a gun. In a rare move, the park was shut down for the rest of the evening.
On June 30, officers patrolling the area approached a vehicle in the small parking lot abutting Rogers Street. The smell of marijuana prompted a search that yielded a few grams of crack cocaine, prescription pills and a .38-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Besides issuing felony possession charges, the police discovered that three of the four vehicle occupants had outstanding warrants: Montez D. Quinn, 18, had a felony warrant for possession of drugs with intent to distribute; Bilal H. Hill, 31, had one for felony second-degree domestic assault, misdemeanor third-degree domestic assault and a misdemeanor traffic warrant; Justin E. Lewis, 22, had a felony warrant for possession of a controlled substance.
Most recently, in the early afternoon of Nov. 4, two men in a black Chevrolet Malibu pulled into Douglass Park’s smaller parking lot. Three independent witnesses say Grady F. Dortch Jr., 28, exited the vehicle and fired a small caliber handgun at Miles Heard, 28. Heard died shortly after arriving at University Hospital from bullet wounds in the right side of his chest and left thigh. Dortch was arrested for first-degree murder and armed criminal action after turning himself in a day later.
With the appearance of crack cocaine. An increase in drug activity and related violence led the police chief at the time, William Dye, to form a task force in the First Ward. Unfortunately, the efforts didn’t last.
“Douglass Park has been categorically grouped with Section 8 housing, poverty, drugs and crime,”
“Sometimes, when the image of something is tainted, it takes 20 times the effort to change it,” he says with a degree of weariness.
What Thompson knows is that some in the community see a lot of drinking, gambling and loitering at Douglass Park. They also see drug activity. “Visually, that makes the average person not feel comfortable going into the park,” he says. “There are people who a have a lot of pride in that neighborhood. They don’t like a lot of the things they see.”
Because people fear confronting suspicious behavior in the park, the community remains silent, and little is accomplished.
(Source: Missourian VOX)

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 14, 2009 | 4:31 a.m.

ray shapiro you,I and other concerned citizens know for a fact that all of these improvement that the "old boy elitists" such as Mike Hood and Bill Watkins want to see done will never diminish the amount of crime that takes place in that one area.

It is a facade of safety and just like the little boy sticking his finger into the dike to stem the flood.

Not until we get another police chief and a First Ward Councilman into position that understands how this goes on,has dealt with this on a much grander scale than this "little city",has worked some real hard core grass roots neighborhood watch programs/campaigns and is willing to do what must be done and that includes standing up to City Council when needed nothing will ever change in that area nor in the other troubled areas of this city.

Maybe they should rename this city to St Louis Far North or Kansas City Far East because that is exactly where our crime rates are taking us.

(Report Comment)

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