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Town, county leaders approve new playground

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SPRING HOPE — Thanks to a deal between town and county officials, the Spring Hope Community Park should have new playground equipment by spring.

The hard plastic equipment replaces aging wooden gear removed a few months ago for safety reasons. The new equipment includes a combined set of slides, leaning wall, crawl tube, chain pod climber, traverse climber, transfer platform, a variety of play panels and a separate swing.

The playground set, 5 feet high and designed for children 5-12 years old, will be installed in a new 22- by 50-foot bordered area with wood fiber ground cover. It’s capable of holding 45-50 children, according to Charlotte-based Cunningham Recreation, which is set to install the new playground structure for $52,348.25.

The Spring Hope town board and Nash County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an amendment to the 2015 interlocal agreement with the town to operate the 5.5-acre park in which the county will provide all-new playground equipment and the town will increase its annual payment to the county to $10,000 per year from its current $7,000. Under the interlocal agreement, the county runs the town’s recreational program and operates and maintains the town park.

The town removed the park’s wooden playground equipment, donated by a Research Triangle day care center more than five years ago, in June. In excellent condition when installed around 2013 by then-town manager John Holpe as part of a state-funded park grant, the equipment had been worn down and broken beyond repair by weather and heavy use, said Town Manager Jae Kim.

County Parks and Recreation Director Thomas Gillespie presented the proposal. Under the awarded grant, he said the town is responsible for maintaining a playground for 25 years. He said sate inspectors had visited the park earlier in the year “and informed the town of Soring Hope that due to hazardous conditions, the playground equipment would need to be replaced with comparable value equipment.”

The county will foot the bill, with the town paying back the cost over several years. The town is paying the county $7,000 annually for park improvements.

A new interlocal agreement and an addendum for purchasing the playground equipment increases the annual payment to $10,000 by August 2020. The Spring Hope board approved the agreement Sept. 3. The Nash County Board of Commissioners approved the agreement at its monthly meeting on Sept. 9.

County Manager Zee Lamb, present for the Spring Hope meeting, told the town board that it’s best to move the payment up to $10,000 a year instead of moving it up and down year to year.

Town commissioners expressed concern the payment would stay at $10,000 indefinitely.

Lamb said the amount can always be changed and with a 60-day notice, the town can always drop out of the agreement.

Once the playground equipment is paid for, the bill could drop below the original $7,000.

At $10,000 a year, the town will have the playground paid for in six years, Lamb said, adding that the payments are solely for capital projects at the park. Electricity for the ball field lights, grass mowing and routine maintenance are paid for with county parks and recreation funds.

County Commissioner Dan Cone said at the Sept. 9 meeting that he’d taken his 2-year-old granddaughter to the park and wouldn’t let her use the playground because of its poor condition. Residents had also complained earlier in the year about the playground’s deteriorating equipment.

Lamb said that because of the projected cost, the county will have to get informal bids for the project and will present the results at the board meeting next Monday. The town board will also have to approve the final bid before the equipment is purchased.

Commissioners had no objection to the proposed agreement.

“It’s the right thing to do, I think,” said county commissioners’ Chairman Robbie Davis.

Gillespie also reported that there had been a minor fire in the park’s bathroom about midday Sept. 8. He said Spring Hope police were investigating the suspected arson and a witness said she saw two youths leaving the building. He said the county will provide portable toilets while the facility is being repaired.

Authorities said the locks to the park’s bathrooms were removed prior to the fire.

Commissioner Wayne Outlaw asked whether the park has any surveillance cameras. Gillespie said there were none and Outlaw suggested a camera system might help prevent future vandalism.

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