Earlier play date comes with a cost

May 3, 2019

DIXON – The Park Board agreed to spend $24,750 for a contractor to install the new playground at Lowell Park in late summer – rather than use an in-house crew – in the hopes of having children whizzing down the zip line sooner.

The district received a grant earlier this year from the Illinois Parks and Recreation Association and GameTime, an outdoor playground and fitness equipment company, that will cover about half of a new $110,000 playground at Lowell Park featuring a 75-foot zip line.

It’s going to be the district’s biggest playground. It will be built in a 100-by-70-foot area in the lower part of the park near the river, and also will have a play center with slides, a swing set and a merry-go-round.

The original plan was to have a maintenance crew of about four or five people start installing the playground around October after the summer busy season died down, but the majority of the board decided it would be better to try for an earlier date so children could get more use out of it before winter.

Machesney Park-based Custom Playgrounds Inc. will start work by Aug. 15, or possibly sooner, and the playground should be open sometime in September, weather permitting.

Board member Rodney Frey and Vice President Shane Miller voiced some concern.

“We’re only going to save 2 months potentially; is $25,000 worth it for 2 months?” Frey said.

Board President Ron Pritchard said the main reason to have the playground open early would be “to make the public happy,” and board member Steve Pritchard said having an outside company do the work would alleviate any liability issues if something wasn’t installed properly.

District Executive Director Duane Long, who attended the special meeting Wednesday via conference call, said the maintenance staff is capable of the work – they’ve installed about 80 percent of the district’s playground equipment – but there are strict installation guidelines, and it would take them at least double the time to get it done.

The board approved the contract in a 3-2 vote, with Miller and Frey against. Board member Keith Aurand voted in favor but said he would be more comfortable with the cost if it meant opening in June or early summer.

The $24,750 will come from the $100,000 the district budgeted for capital projects, and it will cover installing all the playground equipment and concrete work. The district will be responsible for installing the playground border and filling it with wood chips.

Splash pad landscaping

Also Wednesday, the board rejected two bids for landscaping for the Water Wonderland splash pad because they came in $65,000 to $85,000 above the $100,000 budget.

Four bids were received, but two couldn’t be considered because of technicalities with the applications, basically forgetting to sign and check a box for the program completion date, estimated to be at the end of June.

City Manager Danny Langloss recommended that the board re-bid the project, and said they’re hoping it won’t delay the opening.

The bids that were voted down were from Cherry Valley-based Cooling Land Concepts for $169,683 and from Rockford-based Sjostrom & Sons for $184,074.

The city and Park District partnered a year ago on the project, which is estimated to total around $515,000 and include a splash pad with 23 water features and two zones geared toward children 2 to 5 and 5 to 12 in Meadows Park near Wooden Wonderland.

The project also includes paving the parking lot and building restrooms and a pavilion.

An anonymous donor pledged $200,000 for the splash pad, the city and district are each committing $100,000, and they’re hoping to cover the rest with community donations.

The goal is to open new landscaping bids May 14 and have the board make a vote the next day.