The 9th Annual Toys for Tots Golf Tournament

Ancram wants kids to play…but where?

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ANCRAM—The town’s Youth Commission has a long history of organizing programs and events for local youngsters that are fun, entertaining and educational.
Now the commission wants to pursue the purchase of new, state-of-the-art playground equipment for the kids, but first the Town Board has to decide on the best place to put it.
Youth Commissioner Ruth Wittlinger came to the August 20 Town Board meeting to get the board’s position on the issue.
She didn’t get a definitive answer.
In the past year, the Youth Commission has put on 26 events: movie night, a barbecue, field day, a trip to the Zoom Flume water park and several holiday parties, to name a few. A scholastic book fair is coming up Sunday, September 20, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Town Hall.
Mrs. Wittlinger told the board that commission members recently discussed the Youth Commission’s purpose and all agreed that it was to make a difference in children’s lives.
The commission then decided that playground equipment would be a good addition to “enhance” the recreational facilities the town currently has.
Mrs. Wittlinger wanted to know whether the Town Board supported that idea and, if so, where would be the best place to put the new equipment: on Blass Memorial Field near the existing town pool and basketball court or on the property where the Town Hall is located?
Town Supervisor Thomas Dias said that early in 2008 he had been in talks with officials at Schweitzer-Mauduit International’s Ancram Mill about a plan to expand mill facilities to Blass Memorial Field. In exchange for the town handing over the old field, the mill would pay for the construction of new playing fields on the Town Hall site.
But with the subsequent downturn in business at the mill, that idea has gone by the wayside, the supervisor said.     
Mrs. Wittlinger praised the Town Board of the 1960s for having the foresight to install the town pool, which was the envy of towns for miles around and “a tremendous thing,” she said, noting the commission’s hope to do something of similar magnitude with the assistance of the current Town Board.
Mrs. Wittlinger said the going rate for playground equipment ranges from $25,000 to $300,000 for something like the elaborate setup the Village of Millerton has.
Councilwoman Donna Hoyt asked the Youth Commission to come up with a “moderate” price goal for the board to consider.
Mrs. Wittlinger told the board that before a representative from the company that sells the equipment will even make the trip to Ancram to give a cost estimate, the board has to decide on the location.
Councilwoman Hoyt made it clear that her preference would be Blass field. “It should go there; it’s not right on the road and it was meant to be a recreational field,” she said.
Councilman John MacArthur was of a different opinion, saying, Blass field may have been adequate 50 years ago, but now town children would be “better served” by moving recreational facilities to the Town Hall property.
He even suggested that Mrs. Wittlinger “get us a price for what it would cost to put a new pool out here. I’ll vote to replace the pool before I’ll vote to buy houses in town,” said Mr. MacArthur. His reference was to the interest some board members have expressed for the idea of having the town purchase the “tin smith house” at the County Route 7/ Route 82 crossroads and then allow the state Department of Transportation use some of the property to improve the safety of the intersection in the hamlet.
When Councilman James Miller said he would be worried that new playground equipment might be vandalized if it were located at the Town Hall, Mr. MacArthur pointed out that the Town Hall houses the substation office of the Sheriff’s resident deputy.
Supervisor Dias pledged the board’s support for the Youth Commission and vowed that the board will look at the playground site issue and get it resolved.
To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ColumbiaPaper.com
 

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