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Committee listens to growing concerns

Anticipated noise from athletic events and practice, current loitering and suspected drug use in the Armory were the chief complaints brought to Marietta City Council’s Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee Wednesday.

Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Experience Director Shannon Folts spoke with the committee and asked for signage banning smoking in the bus stop, for more patrols by city police and added security cameras to deter illegal activity.

She explained that smells of marijuana, evidence of smoking, suspicion of drug deals and having staff approached for money, food and rides have all led to the recent resignation of a volunteer for the CVB.

“And visitors are being approached for money, too,” she said.

Assistant Safety-Service Director Bill Dauber confirmed concerns he has fielded in recent months with the city police department including an alleged act of voyeurism in the ground floor of the building.

“I’ve also had reports that there have been vagrants sleeping in here,” said Dauber. “It is open to the public, I can attest to the need for signage, but don’t you think that’s just a band-aid?”

But Folts also shared anticipated concerns now that the gymnasium above the ground floor offices and community room is scheduled to open on Aug. 30.

City Law Director Paul Bertram answered those concerns with a review of the lease made between the city and Marietta City Schools at the beginning of last year to renovate and restore the gymnasium for use by the school system.

Per that lease, the school system has control of the gymnasium between 3 and 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays between 5 and 11 p.m.

School officials were not included in the meeting Wednesday night, but when reached by phone afterward, Doug Mallett, president of the Marietta City Schools Board of Education, said the district, which started classes Wednesday, is already preparing for sporting practices and events in the gym.

“The city insulated the bottom as best it could during our renovations, I believe, but we don’t know what the noise is going to be until we start utilizing the space,” said Mallett. “Most of the time we’ll be utilizing it will be after business hours anyways. We have a new (athletic director), and he’s going to be allocating the space any day now. We’re ready to go and just need to coordinate the times with the different teams.”

Mallett said the renovations of the gymnasium are complete and per the contract and the board’s agreement with fundraising teams, no school system funds were used to pay for the approximately $73,000 in repairs and additions.

In the meeting Wednesday, Councilwoman Susan Boyer noted that due to the executed contracts both with the school system and the CVB, the city is responsible for providing sound-dampening measures to allow both uses to continue in the building.

“We have an obligation to provide a quiet place to work. We need to figure out a way to insulate it or provide a quiet space to do business,” she said. “I think whatever we need to do to resolve that issue, we need to do… or they’re going to leave and I don’t want them to.”

Chairwoman Cindy Oxender has now asked for three actions from Dauber following further discussion at the committee meeting:

1. Block any scheduling for community use of the gymnasium outside of the school system’s use until further notice.

2. Ascertain a cost evaluation to soundproof the ground floor rooms of the Armory.

3. Research and report back both that evaluation and options to pay for soundproofing.

Councilman Geoff Schenkel also asked for a cost comparison at the same time that the soundproofing models are delivered to council (an estimated six months minimum) to consider moving council meetings permanently to the municipal court building.

“I will communicate the problem to City Engineer Joe Tucker to field a solution,” said Dauber. “I’m certain that it’s going to take more money to fix this problem… the first step is to know what the solution is and how much it’s going to cost.”

Council also reviewed an update on Start Westward Monument ownership and responsibility for monument repairs during the committee. Bertram informed the legislative body that the monument deed has been found, noting ownership is still with the U.S. Department of the Interior, with only custodianship granted to the state historical society.

Council will next meet on Aug. 28 at 4:30 p.m. for Water and Sewer combined with Finance Committee and then be followed at 6 p.m. for a final review and edits to the 2020 Community Development Block Grant submission.

Both meetings are scheduled to take place in room 10 of the Armory, 241 Front St.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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