Council approves buying park land

Matt Peters

Kent is known as Tree City.

But Councilwoman Beth Oswitch said there are not enough parks throughout the city.

Kent City Council voted 6-3 at last night’s meeting to purchase land to be used as park land at the corner of Highland and Crain avenues for $200,000. Oswitch made the motion during the meeting citing that her constituents demand park land.

“I have done nothing —literally nothing but talk to people about this,” Oswitch said. “My phone is ringing until 11 o’clock at night on this issue. This is the only land space in my ward.”

Oswitch is the Ward 6 councilwoman. Ward 6 is located north of the university and currently has no parks.

Oswitch said Kent schools currently own the land. The school board will be auctioning the property April 29. The money will come out of the city’s capital improvements fund. Oswitch said the Parks and Recreation Board was unable to fund buying the land themselves, forcing Council to step in.

Councilman Ed Bargerstock seconded the motion. He said the city is in need of recreation land because of the lack of parks within the city. Even if the land is substandard, Bargerstock said he believes it will be used because people want to use park lands, good or bad.

“I have heard from a number of people, more than five, about how vitally important that area is for their children,” Bargerstock said. “In our central city area, we lack parks. All you have to do is drive by DuBois parking lot and go by that area, which is private property, and there’s ball games and whatever else.”

The motion passed but not without opposition.

Several members of Council spoke out about the issue of spending money.

Councilwoman Kathleen Guckelberger said it was unfair to spend money for the land and ask taxpayers to pass a renewal levy in the May elections.

The land was too small and would not make good park land, Councilman Wayne Wilson said.

Councilman Garret Ferrara said he supported the motion in theory but didn’t think the money was available. All three voted against the motion.

“I don’t think we can be the knight in shining armor for the parks board,” Ferrara said.

In other business, Council approved a retroactive motion at the meeting to pay no more than $600 for the lunch and hors d’oeuvres served during the three city manager candidates’ trip to Kent last Friday. The candidates met with Council for a tour of city and also met with Kent residents during the evening, but Council never approved a budget for the trip until last night.

Contact public affairs reporter Matt Peters at [email protected].