Monday, June 24, 2013

TOP STORY >> Cabot puts off renaming park

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Parks Commission on Tuesday evening postponed a decision on renaming the skateboard park on the community-center grounds after a teenager who died in April when the SUV he was riding in spun out of control and hit a tree.

The problem with responding to the request, commission members said, is that they have no criteria on which to make a decision.

Furthermore, the skateboard park, like the community center, is part of Cabot Veterans’ Memorial Park, and Mayor Bill Cypert said from the audience that the veterans have sued the city before to protect their interests in the park and a name change, even for a small part of the park, might not be to their liking.

The request was made by Don and Sharon Wood on behalf of the parents and friends of Jaden Cain Herlacher, who used the park frequently until he was killed on April 3. He was 15 years old.

“We believe that renaming the skate park in honor of Jaden Herlacher will provide an even more special meaning and place where the youth and children of the city of Cabot can meet, plan and enjoy their childhood as Jaden did,” the Woods said in the written request to the parks commission.

The commissioners said they were concerned about setting precedence, but Don Wood pointed out that it had already been done when a ball field was named for Dakota Hawkins, a Cabot teenager who died from cancer.

What were the criteria back then, he asked. But the commissioners said they didn’t know. They weren’t on the commission when it happened and had no record of it.

Though not attached to the proposal in the commissioners’ packets for the meeting, the Woods gathered 1,500 signatures to support their request. They also brought Herlacher’s family and several of his friends to the meeting.

The commission agreed to research the matter and have an answer in three months or so. In the meantime, they said they would not object to a monument in the skate park in Herlacher’s honor.

In other business:

• It took a lot of persuasion and two tries, but all members present for the meeting voted unanimously to ask the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Commission to spend about $18,000 for new scoreboards for the football field. The first vote was 3-2, but that wasn’t enough of a majority for it to pass. Chairwoman Maggie Cope and Dawn Beckley wanted to spend $4,200 from the parks budget to repair the old ones, wait two years until soda contracts are renewed and ask the winning company to pay for them. They changed their minds after more debate from Commissioners John C. Thompson, Ken Kincade and Eric Park and members of the football association.

• The commission voted to postpone the purchase of a house on a 3/4-acre lot at 408 Polk St. that will likely be needed for parking after the community center is expanded using bond money supported by the recently-extended one-cent sales tax. Mayor Cypert said if the money isn’t available from bonds for the parks, the city would likely help with the $60,000 purchase.

• Parks Director John Crow reported that work has started on the 726,000 renovation of the community center. The therapy pool is closed. The swimming pool will close July 1, followed by the fitness area on Aug. 1 and the gym on Sept. 1. If work progresses as expected, the pool should reopen on Oct. 1.

• The commission said it would not entertain the possibility of moving the second entrance to the planned baseball and water park from the northern end of the property where it will be built off Kerr Station Road to the southern end as the owners have asked. Engineers for the project estimate the relocation would add about $320,000 to the cost of the project. Moving the road would provide access to land owned by two members of the family that is selling the 50-acre site to the city for $750,000.

• During a public-comment meeting before regular business was discussed, the commission heard requests for the addition of a bike trail and dog park to the city’s parks. Crow said the purpose of the public meeting was to determine what is needed. But holding the meetings also increases the odds of being approved for grants, he said.