By QUINT QUALLS
A resolution to deed property to the Spring Hill Little League for new ball fields comes before the Board of Mayor and Alderman for consideration Monday.
The city has been considering transferring the deed for a 20-acre property off of Derryberry Lane to Spring Hill Little League after the organization came before the Board of Mayor and Alderman to reveal that it would soon lose four of its six fields that are currently in the path of the state’s impending extension of Saturn Parkway to Beechcroft Road.
During discussion earlier this month, however, city leaders expressed increased resistance to the idea of deeding property over to the organization.
After some board members suggested a long-term lease of the property, the league informed city officials that without the deed to the property it would not be able to seek grants or loans to raise the funds to build a new baseball complex.
At the Aug. 1 Board of Mayor and Alderman work session, City Attorney Patrick Carter explained that he knows of no legal mechanism whereby the city could deed property over to Spring Hill Little League and have the deed to the property revert back to the city should the league default on any loans. Instead, the property would go to whichever financial institution from whom the league borrowed.
“What I’ve heard tonight concerns me a lot because the whole thing – and the vice mayor alluded to it – was that we had that fallback that it would come back to the city if they failed,” said Mayor Rick Graham at the Aug. 1 work session. “So what he’s saying tonight, we don’t have that mechanism.”
Tom Mencer, league president, said the primary reason to have the property deeded over would be grants that require ownership of the property. He said the last thing they would want to do is borrow money against the property.
“That stipulation on borrowing money, y’all have the right to refuse us borrowing money,” Mencer said. “So if we can’t start it with our own money or money we raise it’s going to go back to the city anyways. So what’s stopping 600 families from building a ball field?”
For the most basic facility, Mencer said it would be about a $600,000 project to build the fields the league needs.
Now the board is looking more at leasing the property to the league or even deeding the property over, but not allowing the organization to borrow against the land, according to Graham.
Some officials contend that the city should take the lead and construct its own baseball complex.
“It is time for this city to build a state-of-the-art ball facility,” said Alderman Chad Whittenburg. “And I’m prepared to spend $6 million to get it. What is our hesitancy? Let’s move forward. I understand what our need has been in the past and why we haven’t done it because we’ve made do like we’ve done on everything, and that’s good on us being conservative. We got the GM fields, and a lot of people worked on that many years ago, and we’ve had other things, but that’s all fallen through. I know I don’t have to preach to you because I know each one of you believe in it. Let’s do it.”
Alderman Kayce Williams argued that Spring Hill needs both a city-built baseball facility for public access and a facility for the Little League to call its own. Alderman Jonathan Duda agreed, adding he is at the point where he thinks the city needs to find the right piece of land and buy it.
An issue for many Aldermen has been a lack of information about the league’s plans. At last month’s BOMA meeting, Duda said he sent out a number of questions about the league’s financials and plans for completing the project.
“I can tell you for me, voting on a resolution in two weeks, having asked for and waited for a couple months on information, I got some of it tonight, and it’s helped me fill in some of the gaps,” Duda said at the Aug. 1 work session. “I know what you intend to do, I know that we intend to help you do that, but $600,000, 600 families, you’re capped out on what you can charge families. You’re capped out because they will go to other leagues at some point.”
Mencer responded that if the league built the fields, it could host tournaments and bring in revenue.
Duda said that is the kind of financial viability of the plan that he needs to know before he can even entertain the option. Vice Mayor Bruce Hull said if Mencer could demonstrate a viable plan to make the fields happen, he would support it.
Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.