Police patrols will likely increase at Jackson Hill Park after Marietta City Council voted not to renew a longtime lease arrangement with a resident who lives on the park property.
Steve Binegar has lived in his mobile home on the east end of the property for at least eight years, providing security and groundskeeping services in lieu of rent.
But during the Aug. 7 city council session members voted 4-2 against renewing the lease arrangement for another year because Binegar was reportedly not providing enough security for the property.
"We have nothing against Mr. Binegar, but unfortunately the lease contract was not being followed. He's supposed to provide security there, but when he thought some items were being stolen from the park he called me, and was not reporting to the police," said Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward.
Jackson Hill is the site of the city's new dog park, in addition to a new picnic shelter and basketball courts. The now-closed city pool was also located there in a fenced-in area used for storage of a variety of materials, including concrete slabs, old picnic tables, signage and other used items.
Materials for construction of the dog park were also stored there while that project was being completed.
Jackson Hill Park lease not renewed
Marietta City Council voted not to renew a one-year lease with Steve Binegar, who has a mobile home at Jackson Hill Park.
Binegar has had an agreement with the city for at least the past eight years to provide security and groundskeeping services in lieu of rental payments on the park property.
Binegar's most recent lease expired in June.
Source: City of Marietta.
Kalter said one evening he was at the park, moving some items into a more secure location, and although he was making a lot of racket, Binegar did not come out to check on what he was doing. He said a police car did show up, but the officer told Kalter he was just making a routine stop and had not been called by anyone.
"When the dog park people were working there Steve reported seeing someone in the area in the middle of the night, but he didn't call the police, instead he called (Kalter)," said Marietta safety-service director Jonathan Hupp.
Hupp said as far as he knew nothing was taken at that time, and within the last three years the only items stolen from the park were two damaged decorative light poles.
"Someone apparently hefted them over the fence from the storage area," he said. "To my knowledge that's all the city has lost."
Kalter also said at one time Binegar left a lawn mower out in the park which could have created a hazard for any youngster in the area.
Hupp said once Binegar's mobile home is moved off the premises, there is no plan to enter into a similar lease agreement with someone else to provide security for the park.
"It will have to be patrolled more regularly which will be an additional cost to the city," he said. "It's unfortunate because Mr. Binegar has been there a long time."
Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said officers would have to spend a little more time checking on the park now.
"We'll just have to increase patrols there. We don't get a lot of calls from that area, but we'll have to keep an eye on it," he said.
Hupp said a notice was sent to Binegar the day after council voted not to renew the lease contract, giving him 30 days to vacate the property.
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, voted to renew Binegar's lease.
"He has been there for some time, and I equate having that mobile home there to parking a police car along a roadway to help prevent speeding," he said. "And at one time there was talk about leasing mobile home sites at other city parks to help provide security."
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, cast the other vote in favor of renewing the lease contract.
City law director Paul Bertram III said although Binegar's lease officially expired in June, by law the city has to give him 30 days notice that the contract was not renewed.
"If he can't leave in 30 days, a notice giving him three more days would be issued," Bertram explained. "If the property is not vacated by that time council can authorize myself or the safety-service director to file in court for eviction proceedings."
He said there is no eviction process in effect at this time.
Kalter said he has recommended that the city find someone else interested in leasing the property on a similar basis.
"It would have to be someone interested and who understands the contract and the commitment to provide security for the property," he said.