White Heath ball field backstop

A view of the current White Heath ball field from behind the backstop. Park officials hope to add a parking lot and a second, larger ball field.

The Piatt County board on Aug. 14 rezoned a pair of properties that will allow for expansion of the White Heath baseball/softball field.

Sangamon Township plans to purchase the two parcels, which total about 11 acres, in order to add parking and eventually a second, larger ball field.

“We’re excited about this project. We’re hoping to get it moving forward and appreciate the county board hearing our request,” Sangamon Township Trustee Mike Nolan told the board.

“We’ve been actually waiting about 30 years for this land to come up for sale, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for us,” he added.

First up will be the addition of parking in order to get vehicles off the rural road for safety reasons, work that could start this fall. When asked by County Board Chairman Ray Spencer how motorists would be kept from parking along the road even after the 100-spot parking lot is installed, Nolan said “no parking” signs would be erected along the street.

County board member Dale Lattz spoke highly of the White Heath park, and of the effort now on the table.

“I think this is a great opportunity and a great deal to do this,” commented Lattz.

The project also includes the eventual construction of a second field, which will have longer dimensions.

“It’s going to be a larger diamond, so will be more of a Pony League and above that level. It’s a diamond that can be used by several different age groups, so it’s something that neither community (White Heath of Monticello) has right now.

Monticello Main Street Director Stefanie McLeese spoke in favor of the project. She said that, even though the field is several miles from Monticello, its effect will reach the downtown business district.

“We believe this kind of effort is what drives economic vitality, increased foot traffic downtown,” she told the board. “We believe it will have a positive impact on the Monticello and greater community as a whole, and ultimately our downtown business merchants.”

The county board followed zoning board recommendations and voted 4-0 to rezone two parcels from A-1 agricultural to a general business zoning, which allows for parks: A 4.64-acre piece currently owned by Christina Pontius, and a 6.5-acre parcel owned by Richard Pontius and Nancee Moster.

Cost of the property will be about $110,000, according to township officials, who hope to close on the land in the next month. A grant from the Robert Milligan Trust will fund half that cost, with township park and general funds making up the difference.

Use of the one field currently available at White Heath has grown in recent years. White Heath Recreation Secretary Aaron Brown said participation has grown from 60 to 183 participants in six years. It is also the home field for the Monticello Middle School boys’ baseball team.

Emergency road work

Extreme heat has caused some road buckles on rural roads near DeLand and Mansfield, prompting county transportation engineer Eric Seibring to propose a $74,286 contract with GM Sypes of Rushville to initiate repairs and perform work to address other vulnerable areas.

The county board approved the contract, which will allow for work to be done on roads south of Mansfield, as well as north and south of DeLand.

Piatt County Mental Health Department Director Tony Kirkman said work continues on hiring a therapist who would work in several county schools.

He also said the MHC continues to add clients to its developmental training offerings, and may receive another seven from Douglas County.

Kirkman added the mental health side of the agency has served 500 patients from 13 counties so far this year, averaging about 18 new clients per month.

Piatt County Transportation (PIATTRAN) is also recording increased use, according to director Jamie Trybom. She said use of the service increased 35 percent this summer over the same period of 2018.

She also said the state has approved the purchase of three new buses, which should arrive this fall. It will result in a net fleet increase of one bus, since two will be replaced.

In other action, the board:

–approved the annual prevailing wage ordinance by a 4-2 vote, with Bob Murrell and Randy Shumard voting “no”;

–approved a deed of conveyance for property sold at auction in Cerro Gordo Township;

–renewed the health insurance policy for county employees;

–approved the following appointments: Scott Burnsmier to the Sheriff’s Office Merit Commission; Brooks Marsh to the Mahomet Valley Water Authority board; and David Lansford to the Emergency Telephone System Board;

–heard from County Clerk Jennifer Harper that election packets for potential spring of 2020 candidates will be available at her office starting Sept. 3; and

–approved a zoning variation for Peter and Mackenzie Klein that will allow them to separate a 3.04-acre piece of a 40-acre parcel of agriculturally zoned land near Cisco. They plan to construct a single family residence.

County code requires at least 20 acres for new homes, but has been finding that homeowners have difficulty obtaining loans for the construction of homes on that large of a site.