By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Faced with the possibility of a tax increase, Pulaski County Board of Supervisors expressed concern Monday that building a splash feature at Randolph Park might be a hard sell.
County staff suggested the possibility of a splash park in the county’s 2013-14 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) as a way to “give back to the community.” The estimated cost is $150,000.
“This balances things that are useful to the public with things that are kind of internal,” County Administrator Peter Huber said, noting that many of the items proposed in the CIP involve building maintenance and other projects that won’t be a readily visible or useful to the citizens.”
Community Development Director Shawn Utt said, “A Randolph Park pool extension would actually give back to the community.”
With an average daily attendance of 535 people at Evelyn Alexander Water Park over the past 13 years, Utt said the water park is generating return on the investment “pretty quickly” at $4 to $5 per person.
So, he said, “If you can add another 200 (people) by having the splash park that was envisioned years ago when they first did Randolph Park,” it might be worth the investment.
“It would help spread out some of the folks who are there,” Utt add. “If you’ve ever been there during a 90-degree Saturday, it’s a good wait to get on the slide. It might be worth the board’s consideration to look at something like that to give back to the community.”
Huber explained that the splash park would be a concrete pad with sitting areas and splash features that allow children to play with water without having to have lifeguards to supervise them. The water in a splash park drains off. It doesn’t collect or accumulate so there is no danger of drowning.
If a decision is made to move forward with the expansion, the splash park would probably installed in the area where one of the sand volleyball courts is located.
Massie District Supervisor Andy McCready, however, expressed concerns about the proposal given the possibility the board might have to raise the real estate tax rate in the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.
“I understand that so much of the things we’re talking about doing (in the CIP are projects) the public aren’t going to see at all,” McCready said. “But by the same token I’m sure there’s going to be members (of the community) who come to see us who say, ‘Hey, you guys need to cut out everything possible before you ask to raise taxes.’ So that’s going to be a real tough road.”
Supervisor Dean Pratt of Draper District agreed.
“Before we do any adding on to our maintenance needs, I think we need to pretty much take care of the maintenance needs of the things that we have,” said Pratt. “I walk around and look at our buildings and some of them are awful.”
Pratt said he recently visited Pulaski Middle School and “just someone with a paintbrush can do a lot.”
Ranny O’Dell of Ingles District added, “That building has really been neglected.”
Robinson District Supervisor Charles Bopp agreed, saying PMS was an “excellent school” when he attended school there.
Pratt said he wasn’t going to “just pick on the schools” by pointing out the poor condition of PMS. “If we go around and look, we’ve got a lot of buildings where a paintbrush and bucket of paint would help a lot. I think we need to start taking care of that. Sometimes, just a pressure washer may be needed.”
In recent budget discussions, county staff and supervisors agreed maintenance of county buildings has suffered over the years as a result of efforts to reduce budgets by cutting CIP spending.
During other discussion of what projects to include in the 2013-14 CIP, McCready said the brick portion of Pulaski County Courthouse is in need of a lot of maintenance due to leaks and inconsistent heating and cooling caused by the HVAC system.
McCready also suggested the upper floor of the newer courthouse building be remodeled to include additional inmate holding cells and meeting rooms for attorneys and clients. Part of the upper floor was left vacant when the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office moved to a building on Jefferson Avenue to obtain more space.