By Kyle Lovern
August 2, 2013
NAUGATUCK - Throughout the summer, parents of children who participate in sports in the Naugatuck and Kermit communities have repeatedly voiced their concern to the Mingo County Board of Education about the lack of maintenance to the ball fields located at the schools.
According to one parent, these attempts were in vain. “The grass is waist high on the Tug Valley football field; our kids can’t even use it for their strengthening training for midget league football,” stated Tina Fitzpatrick, the mother who has taken the bull by the horns and headed up the efforts to see this problem alleviated.
Fitzpatrick told the Daily News that she has contacted everyone she could possibly think of to have the grass mowed. She has spoken with Mingo County Schools Superintendent Randy Keathley several times, as well as Missy Endicott and Debbie Sheppard at the board’s office.
Fitzpatrick relayed that she has also spoken with a Mr. Pickens at the W.Va. State Department of Education in Charleston and was informed that there are employees with the Mingo School Board whose primary job is to do nothing but keep the lawns and other school property mowed, and the weeds cut.
“The only time the entire football field was cut this summer was when County Commissioner Dave Baisden and two other men came down and had to take a bush hog to cut it, it was that high. The board promised me that they would send a couple of their guys down to take lawn mowers back over it to help mulch the high grass after it was cut but once again, that didn’t happen…they never came.”
Fitzpatrick commended one school board member however; who she said donated his own time and used his own personal lawn mower and furnished gas to work on the field, that person being Stephen “Cheetah” Marcum. “He really cares about these kids,” said the concerned mom.
“We really appreciated him taking the time to give us a hand with this.” Fitzpatrick remarked that with 80 cents of every tax dollar that is collected by the county going to the Board of Education, she sees absolutely no reason that employees can’t be in place to address these matters instead of relying on the public to do their job for them.
“As many people as there are in this county that are laid off and out of work - reliable, hardworking people that would not mind one little bit to be paid to cut grass are plentiful, if the employees they have now don’t want to do the job.” Fitzpatrick said not only was the high grass an inconvenience for children who tried to run and play on the fields or participate in sports there, there are also safety issues that come to mind such as snakes being hidden from sight under the thick grass.
“All we’re asking is for people to do the job they’re hired to do,” she stated. “We are tax paying parents that should not have to see our kids faced with situations like this. Mow the grass and we’ll be done with it…end of story.”
The final issue Fitzpatrick addressed during the interview was a portion of the chain-link fence that surrounds the Tug Valley football field that has fallen down and appears to be damaged, possibly beyond repair.
“School starts in three weeks…why are they waiting until the last minute to make these repairs and get the grass cut? I would think that it would make better sense to get these problems alleviated during the summer months when they aren’t students utilizing the fields each day, but I suppose they don’t see things the same way I do.”
Attempts were made by the Williamson Daily News to speak with Keathley, but were unsuccessful. Updates to this problem will be featured in future editions as they become available.