McDonald decision to close basketball courts now final

McDONALD — The Woodland Park basketball courts will remain closed for the rest of the year and Village Council gave final reading Sept. 20 on legislation allowing the mayor and village administrator to set and regulate the days and hours when the courts and other parts of the park will be open for use.

The legislation passed by a vote of 4-0. Council members Mike O’Brien and Brian Fisher were absent.

The courts were closed after problems with individuals using profanity, leaving litter at the courts and drug paraphernalia being found there. In 2016, an individual was robbed of his cellphone while at the courts.

Councilman Richard Harvey, parks and building committee chairman, said the decision to close the courts ”has not been an easy one.”

”Things have changed at the park because of the activity that has gone on there. We had to make some difficult decisions. It is disappointing when people use profanity and leave bottles and litter, but when you have drug paraphernalia inside the courts and someone higher than a kite there, that is a problem,” Harvey said.

The police department warned individuals about their behavior, but the situation has gotten worse, he said.

Harvey suggested bringing in police dogs, when needed, to search for drugs. Harvey said the basketball, volleyball and tennis courts were built with village funds.

”We did this because we want people in the park, both our residents and out of towners, to be safe,” he said.

The issue may be revisited in the spring.

Resident Joe Dugan of West Marshall Road suggested constraints be placed on use of the courts by those who do not follow the park rules and that police speak to those at the court on the behavior that is expected.

”If they think they have eyeballs on them, they won’t show up,” Dugan said.

Resident Walt Bradley of Third Street said he hates to see the courts closed because ”outsiders” ruined it for everyone.

Mayor Glen ”Marty” Puckett said the situation came to a boiling point where ”the village had to be proactive before something happened to somebody at the courts. The safety of people is most important.”

He was checking with other communities on how they handle such issues on their basketball courts.

In another matter, council accepted the resignation of full-time police officer Allen Fields, effective Friday, and part-time officer David Ritz, which was effective Sunday. Both accepted positions with other police departments. Acting police Chief Bill Woodley said he is looking for two replacements for the officers. Council also:

• Designated two-way stops at Madison Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and Madison Street and Ohio Avenue;

• Set trick-or-treat 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.