Park board hopes for good turnout at special election

NEW CUMBERLAND – A week from today, New Cumberland residents will decide whether they want to continue supporting the city parks with their taxes.

New Cumberland Park Board President John Everly said he is hoping for a strong voter turnout for the Jan. 18 special election and a strong showing for the Park Board’s excess levy renewal.

“The levy is our budget. If there’s no levy, there’s no park board,” Everly said.

Voters thought they had renewed the levy in the May 2013 municipal election but learned later that the margin of victory (120-93) was not sufficiently high. West Virginia law requires municipal excess levies to pass by a 60 percent margin.

When city officials realized the oversight, they decided to hold a special election and put the issue back on the ballot. Polls at the New Cumberland Municipal Building will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18, City Clerk Tammy Jenkins said.

Early voting continues through Wednesday, with polls open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

“It has to pass this time” for the collection of tax revenues to continue uninterrupted, Jenkins said.

The current levy expires on June 30, the end of the fiscal year. If the levy passes, it will take effect July 1 and continue through June 30, 2018, Jenkins said.

The levy, which generates more than $42,000 a year toward the Park Board’s budget, supports the operation, maintenance and upkeep of the city park system, Everly said.

That includes New Cumberland City Park, the New Cumberland Community Center, the Eden Valley complex – tennis courts, basketball court and baseball/softball field – and the South Chester Street playground, he said.

Everly, who has been involved with the Park Board for more than 20 years, said the biggest budget items are liability insurance, labor costs for part-time staff, utilities, maintenance and physical improvements.

“It all goes into maintaining the parks,” he said. “If there’s no funding, there’s no maintaining of the parks, and who knows what it will end up like?”

The Park Board continues to make improvements to the community center, Everly said, including replacing the roof, refinishing the floors, installing new lights, putting in new furnaces and remodeling the basement.

“It’s got the most upkeep,” he said.

The community center is used regularly by the Boy Scouts, Camp Fire, and the Oak Glen Junior Bears cheerleaders, as well as for roller skating, volleyball, basketball and other activities, Everly said.

The Park Board also recently purchased new playground equipment for the city park, some of it with money from a grant, Everly said. New swings for the playground on the corner of Washington and North Chester streets will be installed sometime soon, he said.

What’s more, the Park Board has repaved the Eden Valley basketball court and installed new fencing around the tennis courts, he said. Better lighting and security cameras also are in the offing.

Everly said the park system adds to the quality of life of New Cumberland and deserves the support of voters.

“It’s definitely an asset for the city,” he said. “It brings people in. … It is well-used, and I’d hate to see something (happen) where we were not able to keep it up as we should.”

Everly said the Park Board, which comprises himself, his wife, Andrea, his sister-in-law, Patricia Binkoski, and two City Council members, will distribute brochures in support of the levy in the coming week.

He’s confident that it will pass. “It always has in the past, with no problem whatsoever,” he said.

The tax is collected at a rate of 12.5 cents per $100 of assessed value of owner-occupied property and 25 cents per $100 of assessed value of Class 3 and 4 property, including cars, boats and rentals.