With Little League season coming soon with its opening day on April 8, league volunteers, players and residents are hoping they can get through this next season with few to no problems stemming from the old lighting system and little funding available to fix it.
Now Winslow City Council and staff are working fast as they can to correct this lighting issue along with many other issues facing the city that they dealt with last week during the a special work session on Feb. 21, held at the Winslow Fire Department. Council members and city employees partook in a roundtable discussion in an attempt to solve some and prioritize other increasing issues facing the city.
The most pressing concern at the time was the deteriorated condition of the lighting at the two Winslow Little League Fields. Council expressed their desire to have the lights fixed as soon as possible due to safety concerns and because of the potential for the construction of new lights to affect the coming season.
Councilwoman Stephanie Lugo said her child plays in that field and that she is worried about the danger it poses to the kids playing in the field.
In a later interview, Kerry Pugh, the safety and equipment officer for Winslow Little League, said "Last year during one of our games, the wind was blowing really hard and some of those light poles started swaying in the wind; sparks were flying out and everything. We were afraid of the wires coming down and hitting that fence."
Safety being such a priority in this case, Council asked Parks and Recreation Director Scott Lancaster to provide specifications for the project during the Feb. 14 meeting; which he provided for during the following Feb. 21 work session.
Brief discussion was made about how this project could be paid for. Councilwoman Dee Rodriguez suggested that the city use the money acquired from the sale of the old Coca-Cola building to pay for the lights. Council liked the idea of using the presently available money as to avoid an interest loan and because it means they can now move forward on the project as soon as possible.
The decision to allocate the Coca-Cola building sale money into the fund was unanimous since the revenue from that will provide the estimated $250,000 cost to install the new lighting system. This is not the cost of the project, but an amount the city is estimating for the demolition of the old lights, and the designing and building of the new. The city opened the bidding process for the project last Monday.
"With a few weeks to wait for the bid and a few weeks to wait to build, then you will already be past opening day," Mayor Allen Affeldt said to Lancaster.
This concern about the lights project affecting the season has some worried because the regular season will be affected.
Lancaster said proper procedure requires three weeks for the bidding process. Combine that with the expectation that it will be another five to six weeks for materials to be delivered, and add on another three or four weeks for construction. This puts the completion date somewhere around May.
Winslow Little League Co-president Kelly Martin walked through the baseball fields to point out some of the problem lights. This is her first year on the board and already she is facing a crisis.
"We have our district tournaments and possibly a state tournament which happens in July. Those are weeklong events and it brings many people into Winslow. Last year we had 11 or 12 teams here," Martin said.
She said if they cannot get the lights ready before they have the tournaments, Winslow may not get those games this year, and many teams like coming to play in Winslow for the summer.
Lancaster said he is glad to see Council moving quickly on issues and that he will be doing everything he can to get this done as soon as possible for the benefit of the community.