An effort by Brookfield trustees in 2018 to reach a written agreement with Brookfield Youth Baseball and Softball Inc. governing use at Brookfield Township Community Park ended when youth league officials said they were not interested, but the trustees are trying again to get a written agreement in place, this time starting with the Brookfield Local School District.
The trustees and township attorney Gil Blair met March 28 with Brookfield Board of Education President Sarah Kurpe.
The school district uses two of the park’s four fields – Fields 1 and 3 – for official games, and the Brookfield Athletic Facilities Fund, an organization run by school Athletic Director Tim Taylor that raises money at an annual golf scramble, has put significant work into the fields. By gentleman’s agreement, the school maintains the fields during the short scholastic season.
The youth league and Trumbull County Adaptive Baseball Inc. also use the fields, again by gentleman’s agreement. The youth league also has invested thousands of dollars in field upgrades.
The township is responsible for the maintenance of the park, which mostly means cutting grass, applying mulch, hauling away leaves and maintaining the bathrooms. The township used grant funds to extend electric and water service in the park and install an electronic gate and surveillance cameras, and has performed one-off jobs such as grading fields, rebuilding a retaining wall and applying material to the parking lot.
The idea of selling two fields from the park to the school was broached, but Blair said that two of the fields – Fields 3 and 4 – are virtually off limits to a sale because of federal funding used to rehab them in the past. Unless the township wants to establish new fields elsewhere, Fields 3 and 4 cannot be sold and must be open for public use, Blair said.
Trustees Dan Suttles and Mark Ferrara said they would not want to sell anyway, and Kurpe said she does not believe the district is in any position to buy the fields or pay to establish fields elsewhere.
That leaves the option of a lease, which can be strictly detailed, or a loosely detailed one that is more of a partnership agreement, Blair said.
Haun said his motivation for an agreement is to set an overall level of field maintenance that all parties can live with, and set a baseline of responsibility in recognition of the fact that the trustees, school officials and leaders of the ball leagues change over time.
Blair said a lease would give the school district a level of control that it or affiliated groups such as booster and non-profit groups could use to leverage fundraising and grant applications.
As the discussions wore on, Blair cautioned against getting too detailed, but Suttles said he wants an agreement to be very detailed.
“I want it down to every detail so there’s no misunderstanding of who’s responsible for what,” Suttles said. “I’m not comfortable saying: ‘Here, we just have this agreement and we’ll work out the details later.”
When Kurpe presented a synopsis of the discussion to the school board on April 13, board member Jerry Necastro said he would not want the district spending money on property it does not own.
“I’m not in favor of renting,” he said. “I’d rather own it.”
“There is a way greater benefit to having a formal agreement between these two parties than to not,” said resident Valerie Kokor, who attended both meetings. “I think for all of you, and for them, there’s a risk in these handshake things that no one knows what they were and what they were shaking on anymore.”
Any agreement reached must be approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the federal government, Blair said.