Colerain Township, OH

Fire Chief breaks his "pinky promise" as Colerain FD extinguishes hope for 400 kids

The Cincinnati Post
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Colerain FD Chief breaks his "pinky promise " to football youth players while construction is set to begin without alternative field ready.Photo byThe Cincinnati Post, October 2023

Usually, fire departments are heroes to children. Not in Colerain Township where a fleet of firefighters stood on the football field of Groesbeck Park and rallied their support to extinguish a program serving 400 children in Colerain that’s been running at this location since 1967, under various names.

Last week, Fire Chief Allen Walls, flanked by his firefighters and elected officials, attended a groundbreaking to erect a new firehouse right on top of a field leased by the Colerain Cardinals Football and Cheer Program (Little Cards) through 2031. In the background were a few dozen kids with signs that read, “SAVE OUR FIELD” and “SAVE OUR PARK” chanting “Shame on you!”

Last year, the chief and township administrator sent the program a letter warning them that they were going to build a firehouse in the middle of the park and promised them that they would find an alternative site to continue their program. The chief promised the kids of the Little Cards program that he would get them another practice field. In fact, he did a "pinky promise" with the kids protesting the groundbreaking. However, the chief and township trustees broke that promise after learning there are no available fields available to serve the largest community program in the township.

Despite a handful of alternative locations being available for the fire department, the township is determined to evict these 400 kids from the park and use it as a free space for a firehouse. The township claims on their website that they have another field for the Little Cards program but refuse to produce any evidence in writing, not even the requests for use of a field.

Their website falsely asserts:

[A] new site has been located that will result in additional practice space as the new location is 3 acres in size, compared to the existing 2-acre field.

The Fire Chief and trustees are not just breaking their promises, they are breaking the law.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) invested over $1.4M for land acquisitions and improvements with funds reserved for “green space” and “recreational purposes”. The terms accepting the funds require that the land be used for those purposes, alone, and that the township must acquire permission from ODNR before “converting” the property for any other use. The property is restricted, minimally, until 2026. In emails from ODNR, twice, the township was instructed as to this requirement. Despite fencing off the property and moving in ground moving equipment to destroy the football field, the chief, firefighters, and trustees, as well as, over the protests of the Little Cards program, they are willing to break the law, pay any fines imposed, and move forward. Most recently, via Summer Plantz Deputy Legal Counsel for ODNR, states:

The Department of Natural Resources has not issued any waiver. Also, the Department has not received a request for a waiver.

The consequences of ignoring these directives and violating the terms of their funding contracts will result in the township being assessed penalty points on all future requests for state funding. The chief and trustees are willing to pay these fines, pay back their loan, and risk future funding due to their egregious conduct.

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Equipment stands ready for demolishing the football field at Groesbeck Park. Township comes up empty handed for alternate fields.Photo byThe Cincinnati Post, October 2023
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The township is adding amenities to parks in the more affluent neighborhoods on the west side of Colerain while destroying parks on the eastPhoto byThe Cincinnati Post, October 2023

While the township readies the field for demolition and evicts the Little Cards in order to save money on a site location for the firehouse, the township is busy installing improvements to Colerain Park that is located in a more prestigious and affluent neighborhood within the township. It has been a long bone of contention that Colerain trustees, who all live on the west side of the township, invest heavily in the range of services to the parks, roads, and policing in their political stronghold at the expense of the urban subdivisions on the east side and southern portion of Colerain. There has been a steady parade of residents attending meetings complaining that the township is exploiting the east side of Colerain for the benefit of the west side for decades.

All the major amenities in the township are located on the west side. The wealthier, Republican areas on the west side have the administration building, the Senior Center, the flagship park, 3 massive parks, and all the aesthetic improvements. While the east side’s zoning regulations are often overridden to enhance business opportunities at the expense of the township’s oldest neighborhoods. Enforcement of laws and regulations is heavily applied on the east side, while the west side is given significant grace in maintaining their properties, especially business interests.

While the township proceeds with destroying the only publicly available football field in the township on the east side of Colerain, they are installing new amenities on the west side of Colerain's main park. The township recently purchased Sears at Northgate Mall for $2.2 M from their petty cash reserves. The township has plenty of revenues. Half come from the east side of Colerain. Yet, they are destroying a community asset to save a few bucks at the expense of east side residents.



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