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Supporters Go To Bat For Dixie Ball Field

“We want to work with you, we’re not working against you. We welcome your cooperation, and we want to work out something that would make it even better for you,” said Current Affairs Committee Chairman Jack Dunavant, addressing Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball (HDYB) league officials Raymond Duffer, Randy Moore and Barry Moore during Wednesday’s Halifax Town Council work session.

Dunavant was discussing the prospect of relocating the baseball league from its current location at the former Halifax Elementary School ball field to another site, one not in a residential neighborhood.

The location of the league at the site on Mountain Road has been a source of contention with neighbors near the ball field since the 1990s, according to Town Manager Carl Espy.

The ball field is located in an R-1 residential neighborhood, and Dunavant said he has received numerous complaints regarding the lights, noise and parking issues over a period of years.

Espy sent a letter at council’s request last month to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors relative to relocating the baseball program from the former Halifax Elementary School ball field after this season.

County Administrator George Nester, who attended Halifax council’s work session Wednesday, said county officials have not made any definitive effort to go out and look for alternative sites that would be suitable for HDYB.

“There are two properties that might be possibilities, one of course is at Sydnor Jennings Elementary, and another possibility is at Sinai Elementary,” Nester said. “But again, we have not made any effort to go out and make any concrete study or proposal.

“Last Monday the board (of supervisors) did meet, and they made clear at this time they’re satisfied with the way things are,” Nester added. “They didn’t close the door that they would not consider another facility, but they said right now, due to the economic conditions, it’s not a good time to go out and think about having to invest public money trying to build a new field and new facility somewhere else.”

Nester said if the time comes to relocate the HDYB program, “it needs to be the responsibility of the county and town to take a look at putting in comparable or better facilities than that organization uses right now.”  

The county administrator said the current Mary Bethune Complex facility is not an option because the fields there see so much use.

Councilman Bill Confroy suggested the county, town and HDYB collectively run some type of notice seeking a donation of an appropriate amount of land to house the baseball league.

Randy Moore said the league has been proactive in searching for funding from various sources, including grants and sponsorships.

“We are actively searching for that avenue,” Moore said, naming Kelloggs as one possible source of grants for the program. Moore said the league has submitted an application to Kelloggs, but has yet to hear from them on a decision.

Barry Moore said 10 acres of land would be ideal to locate two regular Dixie Youth ball fields, a tee-ball field and sufficient parking. He said in order to bid for a state tournament a league must have two complete fields. Randy Moore said the cost for one complete ball field, not including the land, is approximately $200,000.

“It’s also money for the county when a state tournament comes here, because of the people who have to stay in motels and eat in local restaurants,” Barry Moore added. “Money will be coming back into the area.”

The HDYB district runs up Highway 501 to the left side, all the way over to River Road and comes back to the town, according to Barry Moore, who showed council members a map of the district.

Barry Moore said so much has been said about the lights. “This is a seasonal thing, not something that goes all year long,” he said. “We try our best to have the lights off by 10:30, we even up the schedule of our first ball games at night to help in that situation, and we have time limits on the games,” he explained.

“It’s not that we’re trying to force you out,” said Mayor Leon Plaster. “Citizens down there have legitimate complaints, at least on the nights that you play.
“The town is willing to help you relocate if we can find the ideal place, and we’re not going to kick you out until we’ve resolved that issue,” said Plaster. “We also want something actively going on, because this has been an on-going issue with the citizens who live there.”

“What you do is super, it’s a tremendous service to the county,” Confroy told the league officials. “It might be a great goal to have a facility that would accommodate a state tournament, that would be an ideal situation. So let’s try to move in that direction and see if we can solicit help from the community.”
“I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, we appreciate what you do,” Dunavant said to the league officials. “I think this could end up to be a real win-win situation for everyone.

“Maybe we need to have a new complex built somewhere or expand the one in South Boston where we could have world-class tournaments here,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing, but you’ve got to have it in the right place.”

County Administrator Nester recommended forming a committee to seek a resolution to the problem. A committee had previously been formed to study the situation, but several members of that committee are no longer in the area.

Mayor Plaster appointed Councilman Confroy and Town Manager Espy to serve from Halifax. Nester said he would like for everyone to sit down at a table, start from the beginning, assume nothing has occurred in the past and pick it up from there.

In other business, Halifax Event Planning Coordinator Erin Shaughnessy updated council members on the Earth Day Extravaganza scheduled for Saturday, April 24. She said the event would run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. that day, but 5K Run and the Fun Run would get under way at 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. respectively.

Shaughnessy said she currently has collected over $1,000 in sponsorship for the event, and she is lining up musical groups to play and food vendors to have food items for sale during the event.

Current Affairs Chairman Dunavant discussed the U.S. Highway 501/VA 360 intersection at the Jiffy Store, saying he would like to see VDOT construct a roundabout or a yield lane at the intersection to help with safety issues. Council is expected to discuss the matter further at its meeting Tuesday night.
Dunavant also discussed recycling in the town. He said town officials should send a reminder to businesses to recycle.

Finance Committee Chairman Dick Moore discussed the March 2010 Financial Report with council members. He pointed out revenues to date are at 77.4 percent of what is budgeted for the current year, and expenses are at 70.7 percent of what is budgeted.

Council also got a look at the projected 2010-2011 budget totaling $880,294. That amount represents an increase of 4.49 percent over the current town budget. The budget is scheduled for first reading at the regular council meeting Tuesday night.