2017-07-06 / Front Page

Basketball Hoops Go Back Up at Pell School

By Brooke Constance White

Less than 24 hours after community members voiced concerns about the basketball hoops being taken down at the Pell Elementary School for the summer during the June 28 Newport City Council meeting, Councilor Susan Taylor said the hoops, which were mistakenly removed were put back up and will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

The nearly two-year-long issue regarding children and young adults using the school’s playground and basketball courts after hours came to a head in the last couple of weeks after Pell neighbors complained again that their quality of life is being affected by the noise from the basketball courts and the vulgar language and inappropriate behavior they have witnessed.

Taylor said she’s confident that there is a solution that addresses both the neighbors’ need to enjoy their homes and backyards, and the playground and courts users’ need to have recreation areas that allow them to play basketball. From her perspective, it’s about quality of life for everyone.

“We are grateful to the community for starting this discussion, as it’s [one] that has been needed for a long time,” she said. “The city is happy to be addressing this issue of providing meaningful recreation opportunities for our kids. There’s a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns, and if we’re talking to each other, we’ll figure it out.”

“The city is committed to finding a more comprehensive solution because we know that there needs to be more basketball courts available for kids who live on the north side,” Taylor said. “Ultimately, our goal will be to have functional basketball courts in three locations, so that’s our priority.”

Newport City Mayor Harry Winthrop said that taking the hoops down was not an optimal solution, and that he strongly supports finding one that keeps the hoops up for the community to enjoy, while also dealing with the issues of the courts being used after hours. If it’s an enforcement issue, he said, it could potentially be handled by having police officers drive by the school more regularly.

“The last thing we need to do is take recreation facilities away from residents. If anything, we need more facilities and there are other options to controlling the situation rather than taking the hoops down,” he said. “We’re going to look at additional areas to create more recreational facilities, because the best thing to do is keep our students and young adults occupied during the summer.”

Councilor Lynn Ceglie said the city put the hoops back up, not the school district, and that it’s always hard when there is a struggle between the two sides.

“After the council meeting, [the mayor] said everything was on hold until Susan Taylor was able to have a meeting with all parties, but there was a communication breakdown and the hoops came down on Thursday, which was very upsetting for a lot of people, including myself,” she said.

The hoops went back up on Friday at 1 p.m., which pleased Ceglie.

“The issue seems to rear its head this time of year when the weather gets good, but I think taking down basketball hoops in one area is setting a precedent that any could get taken down in a residential neighborhood here,” she said. “I know we’ve been working on this issue for a long time, but I think we have to give Susan a chance to talk to them and get the discussion going. We’ve been trying to. Let’s see what a fresh face can do.”

Taylor hosted a community meeting Wednesday night at Pell to begin a discussion on the issue of needing additional recreation materials in the north side of the city while also figuring out how to handle the after-hours use of the courts at the school and the inappropriate behavior and language that neighbors have witnessed. About 40 community members attended including city councilors, representatives from area nonprofits, local officials, Pell neighbors and north side residents.

Taylor prefaced the open forum by saying that it will be one of many meetings to discuss the topic. Attendees discussed the added values and drawbacks of having additional recreation opportunities and also what some solutions might look like.

Jennifer Jackson, a Pell school neighbor, said that a solution will come when everyone works together and stops pointing fingers.

“We need to have a neighborhood community where our voice is strongly speaking for all our needs,” she said. “We need to stop pointing fingers and start coming together.”

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