The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Mayor Leiken Isn’t Buying it

Shaker parents Lee Weingart and Doug Neary proposed a plan to finance two turf fields and a new track to City Council at City Hall Oct. 24, but Mayor Earl Leiken isn’t buying.

The proposal suggested the school district and city jointly fund the $2.5 million project.

 “We need to approach a problem that has been nagging this community: deplorable, unplayable and dangerous fields,” said Weingart, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner.

According to The Sun Press, Weingart wants the city to seek a $2.5 million loan from local banks in order to cover the cost for replacing the track and installing two artificial turf fields at the high school, and at Woodbury Elementary. The loan repayment would be split between the district and the city. Each would pay about $6,000 a month over the next 15 to 20 years.

In an interview with Weingart couldn’t name any donors at this time but clarified that “there are a handful of people who have committed an amount of money, but that amount is nowhere near what project will cost,” Weingart said.

At the meeting, Neary stressed that the installment of these fields and track would benefit all Shaker residents, not just athletes. “I believe it’s a misperception that this proposal is about athletics,” said Neary.

Following the proposal, Mayor Earl Leiken sympathized with Weingart and Neary.

“I’m fortunate my grandson is a hockey player rather than a soccer player, otherwise he’d be sitting right there with you,” Leiken said.

In a phone interview, Leiken agreed that residents should feel comfortable with the conditions of the fields. However, he said there are many issues to consider. This year, the state legislature cut Ohio’s state support in half and eliminated the Ohio estate tax, through which the school received $3-4 million yearly.

“The city just doesn’t have resources right now to invest in school fields,” Leiken said.

 He stressed that the city and schools need to conduct further studies to find alternative solutions other than turf.

Weingart feels that the only alternative solution would be better drainage under a natural grass field. However, because of northeast Ohio’s inclement weather, turf fields would be the best solution to withstand wear and tear.

Weingart was unsatisfied by Leiken’s response to find alternative solutions. “The city and our field committee have two completely different views on this issue,” Weingart said.

Weingart revealed that the schools are putting together a facility review commission, which will review field conditions. He said, “With turf fields, if it rains at 9 o’clock, you can play on the field by 9:15.”

A version of this article appeared in print on 21 November 2011, on page 13 of The Shakerite.

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