Fort Thomas city council has approved a plan to spend $3.6 million on a playground upgrade and other improvements in Tower Park.
The vote, held at last week’s council meeting, was unanimous, although it came after much discussion over including a proposed splash pad. After a motion in favor of the amenity was voted down, the council voted to accept the project without the splash pad. The pad would have cost $315,000.
At a prior meeting, city staff estimated the project would cost about $4.5 million. City Administrator Matt Kremer explained splitting the project into two parts —the playground equipment and the construction of the ADA-compliant walkways, decorative stone wall for the entranceway, signage and other improvements would save the city between $300,000 and $400,000.
By purchasing the equipment separately, the city could take advantage of a state-contracted bid with the manufacturer Midstate Recreation.
The construction part of the bid went to five contractors, but only one bid on the project. Cincinnati-based Prus Construction bid $1.6 million without a splash pad and if a splash pad were to be included, the bid would be about $1.9 million.
Cost of the playground equipment (including turf) is listed as $1,985,444. Together, without the splash park, the project is expected to cost $3,608,603.
The city had initially budgeted $2.5 million for the project, which was part of the COVID-19 relief funds made available to the city. The vote was needed to add $1.7 million for the project.
Council member Adam Blau spoke in favor of adding the splash pad, saying it was a top priority in the Comprehensive Plan, and he had heard from many residents who wanted it. When his motion to include the amenity failed, he voted in favor of the project without it.
“Regardless which way you cut this thing, we are spending a lot of money. With the splash pad or not, this is a lot of money,” said council member Ben Pendery. “There’s been so much work put into this so far. It’s a obviously a need and a want of the city. It’s a tough pill to swallow because it’s so expensive…but I think we are at a point in this conversation where we need to make a decision.”
Kremer noted the city met with the local mothers’ group to identify needs. The new playground would be fully accessible, accommodating children in wheelchairs, walkers and other needs. Adjustments would allow for grandparents and other caregivers to be able to accompany and help the children.
“Staff worked very hard to get this accessible to everybody and every ability, and it will be here a long time,” said Kremer.