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The Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission has chosen Charleston architectural and engineering firm ZMM to study a proposal to build a multi-million dollar sports complex at Shawnee Park, in Dunbar.
The commission voted unanimously to go with ZMM during its regular meeting Wednesday.
"They'll be looking at what our need actually is, how many fields we actually need, is it feasible to put it there and replace the golf course, how many people can we expect, Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said.
ZMM was one of two companies that put in bids to do the feasibility study, Hutchinson said. Bids from ZMM and the other company, Minnesota-based CSL, were within $100 of each other, he said. The board decided to go with the local company.
"They know our market better, Hutchinson said. "They've done this type of work in our community before ... the board felt comfortable with the fact that they've done this type of thing before in our community, not necessarily with the soccer fields and the ballfields, but with other recreational facilities.
The bid was for $43,000, but Hutchinson said the cost will be adjusted to reflect that an aquatic center was taken out of consideration. Hutchinson said another group approached Parks with the idea of building the aquatic center.
Hutchinson said the board expects to have the study completed by late summer or early fall.
The Kanawha County Commission agreed at its Feb. 16 meeting to fund the study of the sports complex proposal. Commissioner Ben Salango said at the time that the complex could have six collegiate-size turf soccer/lacrosse fields, six to eight baseball/softball fields and, possibly, a track. Salango said the complex could host games for travel teams in the region and would be an economic driver for the area.
Not everyone is happy about the proposed sports complex, though. About seven women representing the Carbide Ladies Golf League came to the meeting to voice their concern that the sports complex would require closing the park's nine-hole golf course. The league uses the golf course every week from April through September, President Pamela Campe said after the meeting.
The league, made up of Union Carbide retirees and their spouses, is mostly people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, Campe said. Representatives of the league told park board members that they use the course at Shawnee because it's relatively flat, it's centrally located and there are golf carts available, unlike the Coonskin Park course.
A Carbide men's league also uses the field, Campe said.
She said that if the golf course is gone, some of the women would stop golfing altogether and some would have to travel farther to play.
Commission Chairman Allen Tackett told the golfers that plans for the proposed complex are not definite and there will be more opportunities for public comment about the proposed project.
In other business:
-The chief of the parks police department said the department has hired an officer. Soda machines at Coonskin Park have been broken into lately, the police chief also said.
-The parks commission voted to let Girl Scout Troop 4891 install a "buddy bench at Coonskin's playground. The bench is a place where a child can sit to signal to other children that they're in need of a friend to play with, Hutchinson said. The Scouts are doing the project to get their bronze award, Hutchinson said.
-The commission agreed to have an appraisal done of about 75 acres of land near the former Sandy Brae Golf Club, which the county used to own, Hutchinson said. After the golf course was sold, an assessment showed that the county owned another portion of the land that it didn't know about, Hutchinson.
"There's a piece up there that we didn't know we owned because it hadn't been assessed, he said after the meeting. "We've got to have it appraised and the property lines marked.
Reach Lori Kersey at email@example.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LorikerseyWV on Twitter.
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