Possible changes to playground project

Friday, November 20, 2020

Plans are still underway for a new playground in Alta if the city decides to fund the project.

However, it is undecided whether the playground project will continue to be a joint effort between the City of Alta and Alta-Aurelia School District, or will become two separate projects.

The Alta City Park where the new equipment will be installed is located north of the Shelter House and is in need of new equipment.

If the city proceeds with the project on its own, the cost will be approximately $88,286, although the park board plans to pitch in as well. “We (park board) have actually started to budget money for the playground. Right now we have $12,000 just strictly for playground set aside,” Alta Park Board Chair Heidi Reetz said. She spoke to the Alta City Council at the Nov. 16th special meeting.

City Clerk Megan Peterson has been involved in the project from the beginning. “It sounds like maybe the partnership between the school and the city isn’t panning out like we thought it would,” she said. Peterson takes donations and maintains a spreadsheet.

A vote will be taken at the December 7th regular city council meeting. After discussion, some council members indicated they are in favor of spending the money to update the city park while others believe funds would be better used for infrastructure and other projects in Alta.

The joint project began about two years ago when Lynn Evans was superintendent of schools, Council Member Pam Henderson said, saying there have been complications in the project and now the schools are doing different things. At the Nov. 11th Alta-Aurelia School Board meeting, Superintendent William Walters said he is currently reviewing proposals from four playground companies.

The plan has been to hire ABCreative to provide playground equipment for the joint project, and a grant was offered to reduce the cost. “If we do not have the order in by Dec. 21st, we lose the grant, and that’s including the school or not including the school,” Reetz said.

Council Member Molly Elston questioned the amount. “Is this a priority for the council to spend this $90,000 on a park that’s going to be located a hundred yards from another? Is this something we want to do?”

“There is a possible chance that the school park will not be accessed to the community anymore once it is built,” Reetz said, indicating the school might lock up the playground by way of a fence.

Henderson said that with the new school administration, The city doesn’t know whether the school is going to allow use of the park 24/7 or not. “We have to remember the insurance factor and it is on school property. In my opinion, we as a council need to make sure that our community has a playground,” she said. .

Mayor Kevin Walsh agreed. “For a community of almost 2,000 people, the city of Alta really has very little playground equipment for their community.”

Two council members said they would prefer directing city money towards infrastructure, repairing streets and removing infected ash trees.

Reetz said that if we keep setting it back, the price is just going to increase by 6% each year. She added that the proposed playground is small compared to what they considered a few years ago. “We minimized it down to this one.”

Community fundraisers have brought in substantial sums for the joint project. Reetz is unsure of the amount in the school account. If the two projects become separate, she is unsure of how the money will be split between the city and schools, but that Superintendent Walters has a part in that decision.

Elston asked if we could discover the amount in the school district’s playground project account. Reetz plans to attend a park project community meeting later this month unless it is cancelled due to the schools’ spread of COVID, she said. At that time, she would have an opportunity to find out what the school district has decided about the playground project and division of funds.

Some donations have been sent to the City of Alta. “If donations came in specifically to the city, I have them in a spreadsheet and I have kept track of them,” Peterson said. Donations sent generally to the Playground Project went to the school district account where they were going to deal with the finances, she said.

“From the beginning, one of my concerns has always been it was never clear how the money was going to be split,” Peterson said. “Every time we asked, we never got an answer.” She had been e-mailing members of the school district’s playground committee.

The mayor asked council members to give the project serious consideration, and at the Dec. 7th regular meeting, they will make a decision whether or not to fund the project. He said the City of Alta has money in the general fund that can be used.