Pickaway News Journal

Thu, Jul 20, 2017

Damage at Williamsport ball fields prompts discussion of added security

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This photo shows some of the damage caused by a vehicle driving through the Williamsport ball fields over the weekend. (Submitted photo)
The tire tracks led to suspects in a wooded area behind the ball fields on Sunday. (Submitted photo)
Daniel A. Miller and Jamie R. Smith Jr. were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. (Photo courtesy of the Pickaway County Sheriff's Office)

WILLIAMSPORT - Village officials are considering new security options at the local ball fields after two people were accused of taking a destructive joy ride through the property over the weekend.

Daniel A. Miller, 18, of Williamsport, and Jamie R. Smith Jr., 21, of New Holland, were arrested Sunday and charged with criminal trespassing following the incident on Ballard Avenue overnight.

Miller pleaded guilty to the fourth-degree misdemeanor Monday in Circleville Municipal Court and was sentenced to 30 days in the county jail (suspended), a $150 fine, $440 in court costs and one year of probation.

Smith pleaded not guilty to the charge, and a court trial is set for 11:30 a.m. June 17.

Ed Cox, mayor of Williamsport, said he asked the village council at Monday's regular meeting for permission to check into the cost of installing additional security lights at the ball fields, and they had no objection to doing that.

"I am also going to be getting quotes to install a fence and a gate," Cox said. "There's a 518-foot stretch that doesn't have a fence yet, and it's the main stretch where people come down in there. That way, we could shut the gate at night and keep people out. I'm hoping not to have to do that, because obviously it's just an additional expense, but we'll see how the lighting goes."

Cox said South Central Power is set to come out next week to provide an estimate on adding lights at the fields.

"It probably will cost the village some money," he said. "They will see what kind of costs we're looking at, and we'll take it from there."

Cox said trespassing on the ball fields has been a minor problem before, but it has become more regular in recent weeks. Sunday was the first time to his knowledge anyone has been arrested at the site.

"We're having a lot of night traffic down there," he said. "We've always dealt with it to some degree, but these last two months, it seems like it's non-stop. It might have been about a month ago, I found needles down there two weeks in a row just lying in the parking lot, so I can only assume there's drug use going on down there as well."

Cox said on Friday evening, about a dozen witnesses saw Miller do a doughnut in a red Dodge Durango in the middle of one of the fields as they were preparing the other fields for games. One of the members of the Williamsport Youth Association, which maintains the fields, confronted Miller and made him come back and fix the damage.

"He had the kid rake and fix the field, which was on the actual sand so it wasn't too hard to take care of," Cox said. "He also called the sheriff, and a deputy came out and basically gave the kid a warning and told him not to do it again."

Cox said he was in his office doing paperwork Sunday morning when he noticed fresh tire tracks on the fields.

"I went down to see what kind of damage was done, and I heard people in the woods," he said. "I walked over there and saw this red Dodge Durango sitting there."

Cox said the tracks led directly to the vehicle, which was also covered in mud.

"I didn't physically see them do it that time, but it doesn't take a genius to know what happened," he said.

When the sheriff deputy arrived at the scene Sunday, Cox decided to press charges on behalf of the village.

"We can fix the sand, but the damage they did in the grass, that's going to take some time," he said. "There are three weeks left of the baseball season, and by the time it's fixed, the season is over. We have five or six guys who work their butts off down there trying to get it nice, and then you have these kids down there just being destructive."

Though village employees mow the fields, Cox said members of the Williamsport Youth Association actually invest time, money and effort in maintaining them.

"This year, the association paid to have the field treated to keep weeds down and try to get better grass," he said. "You spend all that money, and now they have to repair it and do things all over again. It's just frustrating."

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