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Dismay Greets Article on Diamond in Rough

July 16, 1987

I read with dismay your article on Johnson Field. The article smacks of sensationalism and I believe is quite inaccurate. I seriously question your figure of $47,990 in public funds spent to build and maintain Johnson Field. Of the relatively few statements that were true, one was that the Johnson Field falls under the control of the Water and Power Department. The access road is locked and so are all other gates that are governed by either the flood control or water and power.

You are right that it is a "jewel" of a field. Had the city provided the field, it would probably be far inferior, compared to what the employees did on their own. I personally know that one member of the Water and Power Department spent two weeks of his vacation time building the restroom and storage facilities. Multiple other employees donated their time and equipment and expertise to make this field what it is.

The total improvements ran approximately $12,000, and more than half of that was paid by donations from the employees. As far as the "full-time groundskeeper," I have been told that the groundskeeper works only approximately half time. He is a MASH (Maintenance Assistance Service to Homeowners program) employee who makes minimal wages, and if you figure half-time employment at minimum wage during the 22 weeks from April through August, the total amount expended would be approximately $1,500.

What you seem to propose in your expose-type article is that the employees who built a vastly superior field by the sweat of their brow should now be forced to turn it over to the general public. I think that type of thinking is ridiculous. Once again, I feel that if parks and recreation had built the field, it would not be the 'jewel that it is. When other "very limited and select groups" are allowed to use it, they are under the direct supervision of municipal employees.

The use of public or federal lands for private use is a well-known fact of life and nominal or no-use fees are also common. The sacred Black Hills of South Dakota were not desired by the federal government until gold was discovered. Then it was taken from the Indians. The Devils Gate site was not coveted by the various and sundry teams until the water and power employees created their jewel. I do not believe that it should be taken from them.



Editor's note: The $47,990 figure was taken directly from city Finance Department records on Johnson Field construction and maintenance costs covering fiscal 1983-86. City officials said that the groundskeeper works full time on the field during the summer softball season.

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