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South Boston asked to help with Day Complex upgrade / February 25, 2021
Halifax County Dixie Youth is seeking the support of the Town of South Boston — financial and otherwise — to upgrade the Day Sports Complex, which was built some 30 years ago at the Houghton Industrial Park.

While Dixie, Inc. takes a lot of pride in the appearance of the Day Complex, “it is beginning to show its age,” said Dixie Youth Baseball President David Ashwell.

Ashwell and Dixie Vice President Steven Crutchfield presented to South Boston Town Council members on Monday a list of improvements that are needed at the sports complex, from better lighting of fields to maintenance work to shore up crumbling retaining walls. While Dixie is hoping for monetary assistance from Council, “We know the town is capable of making some of these repairs and that works too,” said Crutchfield.

The Day Sports Complex is used for baseball, softball, and soccer but “first and foremost this field is for Dixie Baseball,” said Ashwell, who extolled the benefits of youth sports programs and the role of the Day Complex in bringing people to South Boston and Halifax County.

“We received a lot of compliments from the visitors who love the amenities like the raised bleachers,” said Ashwell, noting that the Day Complex serves as a good location between Richmond and Raleigh for baseball and softball tournaments.

More than 350 local youths ranging in age from four-19 take part in sporting programs at the complex, and the Halifax County Dixie program draws participants from Brookneal, Pittsylvania County and other outlying areas. Even as the pandemic forced the cancellation of Dixie All-Star play in 2020, the Day Complex played host to travel ball leagues which held ten tournaments this past season.

Travel ball players and their families came from Virginia Beach, Lynchburg, Roanoke, and North Carolina, Ashwell noted. The Day Complex is a great way to showcase Halifax County to these visitors, but the lack of basic amenities — such as ADA-compliant facilities — is something that should be addressed.

“With so many visitors, being handicapped accessible is a standard we would like to meet,” said Ashwell.

Of the major safety concerns, the two most pressing are the dim lighting and several failing retaining walls. With league games being played in the evenings, a majority of games require field lighting. The lights at the Complex have not been properly serviced in almost 20 years and do not provide enough light to safely play after dark, said Ashwell. Cleaning and replacing light bulbs would greatly improve the situation.

“On the smaller field, it is really dark at home plate,” said Ashwell.

The other main safety issue is four of the retaining walls around the complex are failing. Some were not constructed correctly while others are showing their age. Visible cracks and separation can be seen on almost all of the walls, and one has fallen down. The cost to repair one retaining wall is estimated at $7,000.

“The wall that collapsed could have caused serious harm to someone if they were walking by when it fell,” said Ashwell.

As for accessibility issues and overall appearance, the current bathrooms do not meet ADA standards and cracked walkways make moving around very difficult for people in wheelchairs. There are also several pothole areas in the driveway and parking lots and the landscaping is not easy to maintain.

Dixie volunteers have worked diligently to keep up and improve fields and facilities at the Day Complex, the league representatives said. Recent improvements include the painting of the press box, concession stand, back stops and dugouts, replacing roofs on four dugouts, purchasing two portable pitching mounds and purchasing a pull-behind field groomer and a side-by-side utility vehicle for field maintenance.

Although Halifax County Dixie did not take part in All-Star play in 2020, Ashwell said the league is looking forward to a successful year and is not ruling out sending All-Star teams to district and state tournaments in 2021. Without All-Stars last year, “the kids had a great season playing ball without the pressure” earning a spot on the tournament teams.

While Council took no immediate action on the league’s requests, members expressed support for Dixie, and agreed on the need to address problems at the ballparks.

“These walls falling is a serious issue,” said Council member and vice-mayor Bob Hughes.

“I know the Town helps to provide heat and lights for basketball,” said Tommy Elliott, adding, “We should step up and treat baseball the same as other sports.

“Dixie provides a vital program to the community and should receive the same level of assistance as basketball to address the safety concerns,” said Joe Chandler.

At their joint committee work session on Monday night, Council members discussed other matters — including residency requirements for town leaders, and a request to endorse a grant request for Virginia housing funds by residents of the Sinai area.

Council was asked to amend the town code to delete the requirement that the town manager, chief of police and fire chief must reside within town limits.

The issue has been prompted by the recent hiring of South Boston Police Chief Bryan Young, who “has found a piece of land outside of town limits near River Road on which he’d like to purchase and build a home,” said Town Manager Tom Raab.

Raab said he surveyed 25 nearby municipalities to determine their protocols for residency by town leaders. Of those surveyed, 11 require the town manager to live within town limits, three require the police chief to do so, and two impose the requirement on the fire chief.

“The Information Age has changed with the use of smart phones,” said Hughes, arguing that quick availability of information allows officials to live elsewhere nearby and still do their jobs. “It is unnecessary to live within the town limits,” he said.

“As we always want more residents in our town, we can be flexible,” said Mayor Ed Owens, adding Halifax is a big county and living in Cody or Virgilina would present more of a problem.

On the subject of housing assistance, the Town of South Boston agreed last year to designate Westside Village Apartments as a revitalization area, allowing community members to apply for funding from the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The first attempt to obtain state grant funding did not pan out, but the group is trying again.

“This is a repeat of last year’s request and we hope they will get funding this time around,” said Raab, who said Council could approve a new resolution to show its support for the grant request.

Also, Council approved a FY 2019-20 audit report conducted by Harris, Harvey, and Neal CPAs. There were no issues with the audit, but next year’s audit will be more complicated due to an influx of COVID-19 relief funds and the Poplar Creek Housing Project.

Council members will vote on amending the residency requirement for town leaders and the resolution for Westside Village Apartments at the next regular monthly meeting which will be held March 8 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Washington Coleman Community Center located at 1927 Jeffress Boulevard.

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