Councilman seeks city playground improvements

The city has upgraded two playgrounds in the past few years and now a city official wants to see another playground receive some attention.

First Ward Councilman Michael Michalski brought up the condition of the Wright Park playground during a meeting of council’s Public Works Commit-tee on Tuesday. Michalski attended the meeting by phone and was joined by those present; Council-woman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak and third Ward Councilman Adelino Gon-zalez, the committee chair.

“Over the past couple weeks myself and council have learned there’s no funds for the playground at Wright Park to replace what was there,” Michalski stated before reading from minutes of a July 2012 Public Works Committee meeting that stated Phase III of the bike path originally had $80,000 allocated for a new playground at Wright Park.

According to the minutes, $51,241 was to go toward the construction of a playground with another $21,981 for administrative costs.

“I don’t know how we get from those specific numbers to now there’s nothing there,” Michalski stated.

Department of Public Works Director Tony Gugino said when he saw the grant for Phase III of the bike path it included the funding for the playground.

“Then when Nussbaumer went and double-checked the status of the $250,000 grant for (Phase III), they also asked too in there to clear up for sure if the playground equipment was still a part of it,” Gugino explained. “Whoever they talked to at the New York State Department of Parks said no, there isn’t any there.”

Gugino said Phase I money included money for playground equipment at Point Gratiot, the start of the bike path.

“I am a little befuddled myself as to what happened. Is it because it’s been so long since the grant was first developed … in 2004?” Gugino asked. “It’s kind of like HUD, why do one minute they say you can do this and then the next year they change the rule. … Nussbaumer did reach out again to clarify that and for some reason they’re saying now there’s no money for the playground.”

Gugino went on to say he would love to have a new playground at Wright Park. He said an earlier inspection this year showed the playground to be “serviceable and safe.” More phone calls led to another look. Gugino said the wooden ramp for handicapped accessibility to the playground needed repair. According to Gugino, arrangements have been made for a Job Corps carpentry class to make the repairs.

Gugino added Mayor Anthony J. Dolce told him the only place to get funding was from the William Cease Fund, but Dolce was concerned about taking so much from the fund for a single project.

“It’s all driven by the unfortunate fact, and I agree with you, money that I was planning on being there is for some reason not part of that grant any more,” Gugino stated.

Gugino said he wanted it to be replaced and it should have already been done. Michalski added a donation of used equipment from the school district failed to materialize due to safety issues.

“I would say there is probably in the range of $30-35,000 in playground equipment down there. Do we want to consider moving a third of the Bill Cease Fund to pay for playground equipment down at Wright Park?” Michalski asked.

Gugino said the two swing sets at the park are still useable and suggested finding out what council was comfortable spending and then go from there picking equipment. Gonzalez said it was a popular site and suggested seeing what was needed and proposing a resolution.

“I would suggest we go ahead and maybe issue an RFP for playground equipment down there and see what comes back,” Michalski said. “I would like full council’s opinion on it.”

The missing $80,000 doesn’t do away with the need to replace what is at the playground, Michalski added.

“There are more important issues facing the city right now, no question about it,” Michalski continued. “But still, there’s a lot of people that visit that location during the summer months, between the Little League Field, the food and the beach and everything else that’s down there; so it needs to be replaced.”

Kiyak asked what the costs of the completed playgrounds was. Gugino said Point Gratiot was some $50,000 while Washington Park totaled nearly $30,000. Gugino said it was a matter of aesthetics and trying to fulfill the public’s wish to update the facility.

“It is a restricted fund so to speak, because it has to be used for the youth of the community, but I can’t think of a really better purpose,” Michalski stated.

Gonzalez said he would run the idea by City Attorney Ron Szot and proceed from there.

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