By Sarah Johnson
Missourian Staff Writer
The parks committee met with city council members, representatives from the Washington Youth Sports Association (WYSA) and parents Thursday night to discuss recent complaints the parks department has been receiving about the youth league.
Parks Director Darren Dunkle said he has received complaints from residents about the conditions of the fields, about the value of the program, how the league is run and where the money is going.
The main complaint, Dunkle said, is the field conditions, which he said is mostly centered on drainage.
“Right now the infields are safe and playable, but not where we would want them to be,” he said.
The parks committee had recommended conducting soil samples, which Dunkle said would be completed in the next couple of weeks.
“That will tell us the makeup of the soil in the fields,” Dunkle said. “It will tell us if we have too much sand, too much dirt, too much clay or not enough, and that will give us an idea of what we need to do to bring up those fields to a level that the WYSA and the community desire.”
WYSA President Mike Stapp said he doesn’t disagree that the fields are in bad shape, but the field maintenance is the responsibility of the parks department.
“We have nothing to do with that,” he said. “We line the field, we dress the field, put the bases out, and that’s all we do. We’re not allowed to go out and fix the fence or repair anything.”
As for where the money is going, Stapp said the organization has been saving money to try to build fields, which he said would cost around $250,000.
The WYSA has saved about $80,000 to put toward a new field.
“That’s not enough to completely build it, but it would be enough to get started,” he said.
The WYSA also has spent money for field improvements over the years, Stapp said.
“We’ve bought two temporary fences for Barklage,” he said. “But those need to be replaced. We paid $25,000 for a backstop at Barklage.”
In the last three years, the WYSA has offered $7,000 to help with drainage and $7,000 to build a patio at Lakeview, he said, and the organization offered $15,000 to help with improvements at Lakeview.
Since that time, the WYSA has withdrawn those offers, Stapp said.
The parks committee also is looking into purchasing a laser level, which is estimated to cost around $15,000. Stapp said the WYSA would be willing to pay for half of the cost.
Dunkle said he has heard a lot of complaints on the value of the cost of the league.
Stapp admitted the WYSA does charge more than Dutzow, Augusta and Marthasville, but those places are able to raise more money selling concessions and they only have one location to maintain.
“We will never be able to come close to what they are able to charge,” he said. “Field prep alone last year cost me $18,000, insurance $9,000, equipment $5,000, and last year umpires cost $24,469.”
Cost to Join
The cost to join the league is $115 for one child, $175 for two children, and $200 for three or more, a cost that he said is less than other leagues charge.
Pond charges $120 per child and Pacific charges $100 per child.
Despite some discussion at the Aug. 5 Washington City Council meeting about the parks department possibly taking over youth baseball and softball, council members at the Washington Park Board Committee meeting said it probably wouldn’t happen, at least any time soon.
Stapp said he thinks the city might be able to do a better job running the league because it could hire itsown people to take it over, but he isn’t sure the city would have the money to run it.