May 20, 2024

W.Va. state funds to be sought for Miracle League facilities | News, Sports, Jobs

ATHLETIC FACILITY EYED — The Brooke County Commission Wednesday agreed to support the Brooke County Board of Education’s application for a state grant for a ball field and playground for youth with special needs near Brooke High School. — Warren Scott

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission has agreed to provide a letter of support for the Brooke County school board’s application for up to $2 million in state funds to create a ball field and playground for youth with special needs near Brooke High School.

On Wednesday, the commissioners granted the request made by Jeff Crook, Brooke County superintendent of schools, and Tom Way, executive director of the Miracle League of the Northern Ohio Valley Panhandle.

Crook thanked the commissioners, saying, “It’s really important to have the support of the county commissioners.”

He noted the Brooke County school board has agreed to allow the Miracle League group to build on school grounds, adding the facilities could be used by students with special needs during the school day.

Crook said 20 percent of the school district’s enrollment is in its special education program.

Following the meeting, he said areas near the high school’s softball practice fields or tennis court are being considered for the site.

Crook said ZMM Architects and Engineers, a Charleston firm whose services have been retained through the year by the board, will be doing surveys, collecting core samples and performing other work to prepare for the proposed project.

He said Way is soliciting private donations for the complex, and no local taxes will be used.

For the proposed 2.8-acre site, the school board is applying for up to $2 million from West Virginia’s Economic Enhancement Grant program, which was launched in 2022 with $250,000 in federal pandemic relief funds to support projects involving water and wastewater extensions and economic development.

Prospective projects for the funds must receive the recommendation of the state secretaries of commerce, economic development or tourism and must begin by Dec. 31, 2024.

Noting there are few Miracle League facilities in this region, Commission President A.J. Thomas said he envisions the complex attracting many visitors to Brooke County.

“Anything that attracts visitors to the county supports economic development as far I am concerned,” he said.

County Commissioner Tom Diserio told Crook, “We appreciate what this is going to bring to the county as a whole.”

Diserio later noted regional athletic events held at the high school, such as the Beast of the East baseball and Soccerama soccer tournaments, have drawn many people to the county.

He added the presence of parks and other recreational facilities is something sought by businesses when considering whether to open in an area.

Brooke County Sheriff Rich Beatty agreed to provide a letter of support.

Crook said it is the first collaboration between a Miracle League group and a local school district in the U.S., and the nonprofit group is responsible for all fundraising.

Hundreds of Miracle League fields have been built in other places in the U.S., including Wheeling, as well as Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

In December 2022, Way told the school board there are more than 15,000 people in the tri-county region who have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability, and such a field and park would give them an opportunity to play sports and enjoy playground equipment that also may be used by others.

He said the facilities would include a handicap-accessible surface that would be appreciated by students with special physical needs and the many grandparents who often care for their grandchildren.

Way said local parks help to raise property values as well as promoting health and fitness, and park patrons with special needs normally bring others with them, which can boost the local economy.

But he stressed the reason for the organization’s existence is the desire to make athletics and play available to those with physical or mental challenges.

Before Crook left, Diserio expressed appreciation for Brooke High School students who recently aided the Follansbee Fire Department and Santa Claus in delivering treat bags to children in the city on the morning of Christmas Eve.

The department’s Santa Run is a longtime holiday tradition.

In other business, the commission announced the Brooke County Courthouse will be closed on Monday for New Year’s Day and its next meeting, normally held on Tuesday, has been moved to 10:30 a.m. next Wednesday.

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