A debate over whether the city should reinstall basketball hoops at two West St. Paul parks has some residents crying foul.
The West St. Paul City Council is weighing whether to put the backboards and baskets back up at Haskell and Oakdale parks, but some residents fear that if basketball returns, so will the crime that plagued the courts more than a decade ago.
Others, however, say that basketball provides an inexpensive activity for residents, and the hoops' reintroduction would make city parks more equitable. Police and city staff can address any problems, they said.
The City Council will vote on whether to reinstall one hoop at each park at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
The hoops were taken down on a trial basis in 2005 and 2006 after complaints about bad behavior, such as inappropriate language, late-night noise and gang activity, according to meeting minutes at the time.
Residents also said that young adults were littering, dealing drugs, urinating in public and harassing park visitors.
When the trial period ended, residents said removing the hoops had been effective and requested they stay down, though the poles remained.
City Council Member Bob Pace said he worries that if they go back up, the old issues will resurface.
"I remember the problems," he said in an interview Sunday. "I mean, nobody wants to live by that stuff."
Pace said he will likely vote to reinstate the hoops, however, since that's what the majority of the council wants."
The parks and recreation committee revisited the decision recently and recommended last month that they go back up.
"I think it's a new time, it's a new community," said Mayor Dave Napier. "I'm all for getting them back in there."
Nearly every e-mail he's received has supported the hoops' return, Napier said, and the city can monitor park activity and make adjustments if needed.
"I think [the debate] has gotten a little out of hand," Napier said in an interview. "It should have been a staff issue."
At a March parks and recreation committee meeting, residents commented on the proposed reinstallation. Committee member Mike Petrasek read three pro-basketball e-mails, but more naysayers spoke up than residents favoring basketball's return.
Steve Heilman said he saw a dramatic difference when the hoops went away. It was not only behavior that caused problems, but the parking, he said.
James Strobel said his daughters were sexually harassed at the park when the hoops were up. Now, picnics and strollers are commonplace, he said.
But Kevin Hendricks urged the city to replace the hoops, adding that basketball is inexpensive compared to other sports, such as tennis.
The city has basketball hoops at other parks, including Southview, Weschcke and Emerson, a City Council memo said.
Bringing back basketball to Haskell and Oakdale would cost around $1,400 per park to buy new backboards, nets and signage. The future cost of resurfacing the courts would be between $8,000 and $10,000, city documents said.