To Grill or Not to Grill?

Council Mulls Cooking Regs at Park

BLYTHEWOOD (April 21, 2016) – During its monthly work session Thursday morning, Blythewood Town Council again confronted the need for policy to guide the use of grills, bounce houses and mechanical rides at Doko Meadows Park.

Town Administrator Gary Parker emphasized the need for guidance and decisions from Council regarding the use of the park, and asked that it be put on the agenda for a vote in the near future. He said the Town is being hit with multiple inquiries about the use of grills, bounce houses and mechanical rides from businesses wanting to use the park for corporate events and from families wanting to have birthday parties and reunions.

Parker also asked Council’s opinion about designating an area for picnics, noting that most of the larger state and county parks had designated areas for picnics and outdoor grills. He also said that from his perspective, bounce houses were just a liability for the Town and should not be allowed.

Parker noted that folks are already picnicking and using barbecue grills at the park, and that there needs to be a designated picnic area where the Town can set up picnic tables and people can set up grills. He pointed out on a plat map a place already designated for a large picnic area. Another decision Council would have to make is whether people would bring their own grills or the Town would install fixed grills.

Councilman Larry Griffin asked how it would work if two groups wanted to use the picnic area at the same time, thus highlighting some of the complexity in developing a comprehensive park use policy.

“We are talking about two areas (for picnics),” said Cecil Moseley, lead maintenance engineer for the Town. “It’s a big field over there.”

Parker said in his previous experience as a manager of a city where there was a park with picnic shelters that included tables and grills, people would reserve a picnic shelter. However, this was with a larger park operation with staff available seven days a week, and if there was a conflict (over use of the picnic areas), there was staff there to resolve it.

“We are not there yet,” Parker said.

Sitting in for Mayor J. Michael Ross, who could not attend the work session, Councilman Tom Utroska suggested that until the Town can come up with a policy and a designated area for picnics, groups can come and picnic, but it should be first-come, first-served with no reservations and no grilling allowed. Utroska was also opposed to bounce houses, largely due to the liability they would present for the Town. His concerns were echoed by Parker and other Council members as well.

Councilman Eddie Baughman suggested allowing only gas-fired grills to avoid the mess and potential fire hazards caused by charcoal grills. He noted that the Park is a public park and he didn’t want to be so restrictive as to hinder the ability of groups to cook and serve food.

When it looked like the group was leaning toward prohibiting grilling until a policy could be developed, Griffin interjected: “When I hear no grilling, are we talking just no charcoal grills? It’s really difficult to come into a park and have fun if you are having to cook food somewhere else and bring it to the park. . . . When you say park, when you say picnic or a cook-out, that’s grilling. There is no sense in me coming to the park if I can’t grill.”

Finally, Council agreed that in the interim, until a comprehensive policy can be developed, Parker, when asked by groups interested in using the Park, would say “no” on allowing a bounce house, other inflatables, or rides and “yes” on the grilling.

Signs and Hot Spots

Council reviewed the recommended placement of new directional signs for Blythewood. One new sign will be placed at Blythewood Road and Boney Road, and the second sign will go at Blythewood Road and Main Street. Each will cost $1,000.

Council also briefly discussed the expansion of Wi-Fi hotspots in the town, coming to the conclusion that it is not the role of the Town to provide Wi-Fi and internet to the community. Parker reported that after meeting with a representative of AT&T about providing hot spots, his sense was that “this is not something really the Town should be engaged in and providing to the community — this is something that is more under the authority of the individual businesses themselves if they want to provide a hotspot in their restaurant or motel.”

Painting the White House

Parker presented three bids he received for painting the Hoffman House. The painting bidders came from a list of contractors recommended by the Sherwin Williams store as having experience in painting 100-plus-year-old houses. However, the three bids were widely apart: $9,700; more than $47,000; and $19,500. Parker said the medium-priced bid was the one the Town will proceed with, especially since it was closely based on the specs that were done by a “professional in this field” and was slightly below the original estimated budget of the project. He said the work will start in a couple of weeks.

Security System

Council deferred further discussion on a security system for the Manor, Park and Hoffman House. While the Town has already received two proposals for a security system, given the number of options available and the diversity of the proposals and the costs, Parker said he has set up a meeting with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to first get some input from law enforcement as to what their experience is with various systems.


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