Many of those who turned out for a Monday night Red Bank public hearing about the proposed site for a new middle school wore softball uniforms, and they had one question that rang loud above the rest: Where will Red Bank girls play softball?
The proposed location for the new school occupies about 14 acres behind Red Bank High School, now used as four recreational softball fields.
According to Red Bank City Manager Chris Dorsey, the city originally wanted to acquire 26.8 acres of the park, but decided to carve out 12 acres used by the Dixie Youth Baseball association since 1962.
"Our Dixie Youth facility is in effect a sacred ground," explained Mayor Monty Millard.
The comment ruffled many in attendance, including Sherry Iles, who serves on the board of the Red Bank Girls Softball Association, coaches a team and is a mother of girls who play softball with the league.
"I'm curious as to what deemed those fields sacred and not ours, because these girls are very important to me," Iles asked the commission as widespread applause broke out.
Commissioner John Roberts suggested that a series of town hall meetings be held to address more formally where new softball parks could be set up in the city.
"We need to figure out what we're going to have for our girls," he said.
Though attendants were vocal about the need for softball fields in the city, no one opposed acquiring the land for the school.
Because the park was developed with federal dollars designated for recreation, the U.S. Department of the Interior had to approve a land swap with Red Bank in March.
Part of that land for the swap has been provided by a donation of 10 acres on Stringer's Ridge to the city last year, Dorsey said. Dorsey said the remaining land parcel for the swap most easily would come out of the three acres where Red Bank Middle School currently stands.
One proposal Dorsey showed was to develop the space into a "pocket park," surrounded by commercial buildings.
Several in the audience, including former Mayor Joe Glasscock, opposed that plan, saying the old middle school land should be used to build new softball facilities.
But Glasscock also charged the commission to move ahead to approve the park land for the middle school.
"I would beg and urge the commissioners to let common sense prevail and vote yes on this land swap and proceed as soon as possible with the new middle school," he said.
The sale of the land to Hamilton County would total $546,000, in addition to the agreement that the county would clear the land where the middle school currently sits.
On May 3, the Red Bank City Commission will vote on the sale and swap of the land. Next, Erlanger North - which owns three of the acres marked out for the school - will have to agree to the sale of that property. The Hamilton County school board will then have to vote to approve the spending for the school's construction - expected to cost about $30 million. Lastly, the Hamilton County Commission will have to approve the project.
If the swap and the sale are approved by all parties, Dorsey said ground could be broken as early as June, with completion in time for the 2013 school year.
Contact staff writer Kate Harrion at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6673.