Park Short on Funds

BLYTHEWOOD – In discussing future construction plans for the town park before Tuesday’s special called Town Council meeting, Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross told The Voice that the town is going to need an infusion of money to continue building projects planned for the park.

“Until Paul Moscati gives us a final accounting later this month of what we’ve spent and what we have, we won’t know exactly where we stand on the final numbers,” Ross said. “With those final numbers we can find some direction.”

At a meeting last week of the Park Committee, Chairman Tom Utroska asked Perry what was left of the original $5.5 million park bond. Perry explained that some change orders in the original construction contracts for the grounds and the Doko Manor made some extra money available.

Perry said that while the Town still owes a total of $600,000 to Monroe Construction (for Doko Manor and other vertical site work) and Conder Construction (for horizontal site work), he said the Town still has $300,000 left in the bank for project expenses from the original $5.5 million bond. In December, the town will receive a final payment of $450,000 from the sale of the Community Center (which sold for $1.5 million last year). Perry said those figures leave the Town with roughly $150,000 to pay for dumpster enclosures and site work at the planned restaurant and the construction of restrooms in the park. To have money to build the restrooms, the Park Committee delayed completion of the spray ground water feature.

The bulk of the costs for constructing the restaurant will come from two low interest loans totaling approximately $900,000 from the Santee Cooper Revolving Loan Fund and funds secured through the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

While the Park Committee suggested that the next feature to be completed in the park should be the amphitheater, there are no funds left to build it. According to Perry, the Town plans to create a tax-exempt, 501 C 3 Foundation to raise funds for future park construction. Former Town Councilman Jim McLean will solicit private contributions and seek sponsors for park projects. The Foundation committee will consist of five members.

The next meeting of the Park Committee is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17. Utroska has asked Moscati to provide a detailed spreadsheet of all moneys that have been spent on Phase I of the park.

Contract Inked for Playground Equipment

Council also gave Ross the OK Tuesday night to sign a lease/purchase contract for playground equipment for the town park.

“While it’s called a lease,” Ross told The Voice, “we will own the equipment at the end of three years, and at that time we will have some options to trade up for more up-to-date equipment. That will be a benefit to us in terms of maintaining and evaluating the playground. The lease payments will come to about $30,000 per year.”

That amount, he said, was actually a capital improvement that was already budgeted. The equipment, purchased from GameTime, a Playcore Company, is very progressive in its appeal and usefulness and will provide three different sections for three different age groups, Ross said.

“One section will be for very young children,” Ross said. “There will even be equipment that will accommodate the needs and enjoyment of the geriatric set.”

The equipment will meet federal handicap accessible requirements and will include a swing that will accommodate a wheelchair.

Town Administrator John Perry said the site for the equipment is already being prepared and that the installation should be completed and the equipment in use by the end of the summer.