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Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

St. Marys officials consider turning former landfill into recreational area

By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - Could the now-closed landfill become a water park, a jungle safari zoo or a golf course? Those suggestions and others from the community were discussed at city council's meeting of the streets and sidewalks committee Monday night.
"We probably want to leave some of these suggestions dormant, but I've listed everything anyone has mentioned to me," Safety Service Director Tom Hitchcock told committee members Mike Kleinhenz, Dennis Vossler, Bill Slemmons, Robin Willoughby and Mayor Greg Freewalt.
The landfill a few miles north of town was for several years the subject of a lawsuit between Auglaize County commissioners and the city. The suit was finally settled in favor of the city in October 2007, which not only shifted the financial responsibility of EPA monitoring to the county but opened usage options for the landfill area.
The city owns more than 564 acres adjoining the landfill (and including the actual landfill of 113.4 acres) in grass fields, river and canal land and acres leased for farming, which last year brought in more than $22,000. Value of the land is estimated at $4,000 to $7,000 per acre.
"We can't do anything with the landfill itself in the way of building," Freewalt said of the grass-covered mound. "It could be a playground or sledding hill, I guess. Basically we're looking at all our options (for the area surrounding the landfill) for something that is beneficial to the city ... We have the capital for most projects and don't need to borrow money or take bonds."
The city had a study done a few years ago on building a golf course in the general area that is referred to as the landfill. Should that option come to pass additional plans could be for a housing development joining the course.
Of 15 options suggested committee members informally listed the following as dormant: Sell off the farm land, wildlife preserve, campground. Not-going-to-happen pronouncements went to private hunting preserve and ATV course.
Options, some of which could be combined, that Hitchcock will research include: golf course, industrial park, remote controlled airplane field, miniature golf and archery area. Other options that would require developers to approach city officials with plans include amusement park, water park, farmers' market (such as Shipshewana in Indiana).
As to the soccer field complex that a group of local soccer coaches, parents and players are lobbying for, the mayor said that plan was "a little premature" until the new school is built.
"They may have plans for soccer fields out there. They're not through with the (school) design phase yet," he said.
Other committee members pointed out there are a number of locations around town that can be and have been used by the soccer league for several years. K.C. Geiger Park baseball fields can be used for soccer and are already closely maintained by the city.
"We've already got 11 parks. I can't see we need another one," Slemmons said.
Additional online story on this date
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