The New Richmond Village Council has notified the community that the eight-acre Ruben Willis Ballpark may someday be sold for commercial development.
The ballpark has been utilized by youth-oriented sports teams for more than 20 years.
Addressing council at its regular Dec. 12 meeting was president of the New Richmond Knothole Association Aaron Humphries.
“The knothole association received a notification letter from the village regarding the evaluation of the ballpark land that the village holds,” he said. “Kids from the village and the surrounding areas play ball there and we are here to ask questions and hopefully, get answers. We would just like to know what to expect. Is the land up for bid or auction yet? What is the timeline? What is the general plan for the property? Do we need to start looking for other places for the kids to play?”
"There are no immediate plans for the property," he explained. "Council had recently voted to send you and others a courtesy notice announcing our intent that eventually we will be looking into selling the land for commercial development. We are not evicting anyone. This is not going to happen tomorrow; the land is nowhere near the market yet."
Durette said that it could be two to three years before any action regarding the land is taken.
The Ruben Willis Ballpark is the last remaining piece of commercial property left in the village that council has to actually sell and build upon.
In addition to the sports associations, the courtesy notification letter was also sent to the New Richmond Board of Education, and Pierce, Monroe, and Ohio Townships.
"We sent a letter to the other townships because we did a survey and found that 90 percent of the kids who play some kind of sport in the ballpark live in outlying areas; only 10 percent actually live within the village limits," Durrette said.
Council members indicated that they are sensitive to the issue and are willing to work with all concerned parties to ensure that other property is found for the kids to play on.
The ballpark is currently used by kids involved with knothole baseball, pee-wee football, and soccer.
One of the reasons that Mayor Durrette and village council are looking into selling the property is that recent economic revitalization has become a priority for the village.
"Do we care about children?" questions councilman Vinnie Cochran. "Of course we do. We do not want the kids not to have a place to play ball, but our economic future is also important. We will work together on this issue when the time comes. Council has a responsibility to ensure economic success for our village and as far as real estate goes, the Ruben Willis Ballpark is a valuable piece of property."
In other business:
-New Richmond's search for a new police chief has ended with the hiring and swearing in of David Willoughby on Dec. 1. He brings to New Richmond more than 17 years of law enforcement experience; the last four years were spent as the police chief of New Vienna in Clinton County.
"I want to take this time to officially thank the mayor and each member of council for giving me the opportunity to serve this community and the residents of New Richmond," he said. "Hopefully I will live up to the high expectations that you have set for me. I will do the very best job that I possibly can."