WARREN Crews spruce up city parks

No money from the tax increase is being used to operate parks, the mayor stressed.
WARREN -- The city is clearing out the cobwebs at most city parks that have been boarded up since 2000.
Some work also needs to be done at the parks that were open last year, and crews are readying ball fields and making sure area young people have somewhere to congregate.
Mayor Hank Angelo said workers will focus on the bigger parks that have ball fields, tennis courts and other facilities used for competition -- Perkins, Packard, Burbank and Deemer.
The remainder of the city's 21 parks won't be overlooked and are scheduled for grooming, officials say, and Lincoln Park will be run by the city school district.
Frank Tempesta, the city's operations director, said repairs will include upkeep of infields and repairs to dugouts and backstops.
Some fences need to be erected, Angelo said, and some lights also need to be repaired.
Cuts caused closings: Parks closed in 2000 when budget cuts forced layoffs of police officers, firefighters and other employees. A few opened last year but only grass was maintained at the rest.
A 0.5-percent income tax increase passed in May to bolster the police and fire staffs. Angelo stressed none of that money is being used for parks.
He also said the city didn't need to hire additional staff to open parks this year.
Four parks opened last year because there was a balance in the 2000 budget -- operating money set aside in case the increase didn't pass, the mayor said. He explained some money from a workers' compensation refund was also used last year.
Money to open parks this year comes from the general fund, appropriated by city council.
Tempesta said the city wanted to make the announcement about parks early enough so area leagues have time to schedule sign-ups.
There is one other issue that needs to be worked out before the summer ball leagues start up.
Auditor David Griffing said there are some concerns that contracts are needed for people who run concession stands.
The law department will draft some agreements with those who run the stands to spell out who is responsible for things such as utilities, Griffing said.

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