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SPRING HOPE — Kids spent much of the summer without playground equipment at the community park, a situation that won’t improve until town and Nash County officials agree on how to pay for new swings and slides.
“Several weeks ago, the town removed the existing playground equipment due to the poor condition of the equipment and the county notification that it could not maintain and repair the existing issues,” Spring Hope Town Manager Jae Kim wrote in an Aug. 5 memorandum to the town board.
Both the town and county staff determined it was in the best interest of child safety to remove the playground equipment. The contractor removed the equipment around the middle of June, Kim said.
On Friday, a group of children sat at a picnic table near where the playground equipment once stood.
“Not much to do,” 10-year-old Jamal Johnson said and nodded his head toward the empty spot where a wooden climb-and-slide platform used to be located.
Under an interlocal agreement with the town, Nash County Parks and Recreation operates and maintains Spring Hope Community Park, built in the late 1970s next to the elementary school on McClean Street.
The town pays the county $7,000 annually for capital improvements with payments set to bump up to $8,000 in the 11th year and jump to $10,000 in the 21st year, according to the agreement.
Kim told the town board during last week’s meeting that he met recently with Nash County Manager Zee Lamb and Parks Director Thomas Gillespie.
“Originally discussed and agreed upon was that the county would ask for the annual payments to move to $10,000,” Kim said. “However, if the town came up with the additional amount above the annual payment to pay for the balance of the equipment, the annual payments would revert back to the original timeline of the agreement.”
Since then, the county said that due to unknown future needs at the park, the annual payment would need to stay at $10,000 in perpetuity, according to a proposal from the county.
Kim told the town board he had most recently communicated with Gillespie about the issue.
Town Commissioner Brent Cone told Kim he should deal directly with Lamb.
“I want to hear that from Zee, not Thomas,” Cone said. “If Zee was in the original meeting, he needs to be the one to say that.”
Cone got his way: Kim and Cone met with Lamb and Gillespie on Thursday.
“Currently, there is no official dealing with the town to replace the equipment,” Kim said. “We have been in talks with county staff — had a meeting between myself, Commissioner Brent Cone, County Manager Zee Lamb and Nash County Parks Director Thomas Gillespie (Thursday) afternoon.”
Kim said he’s enjoyed a good working relationship with the county during his tenure in Spring Hope.
Changes to the agreement have been made, Lamb told The Enterprise after the meeting.
“We have made some revisions to the addendum to be presented to the Spring Hope board on Sept. 3,” Lamb said.
The town has to replace the playground equipment in accordance with the maintenance requirements of the state’s Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
Kim said town staff reached out to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies in order to secure financing to purchase new playground equipment.