Farmington’s Flanders Park may get Kaboom! playscape

Greater Farmington Area Chamber Business Expo

It took quite a bit of procedural wrangling, but Farmington officials on Monday signed onto a Letter of Intent that may bring Flanders Park a new playscape.

Council member Joe LaRussa tracked down the grant opportunity with Kaboom! Inc., which matches communities with funding partners. The company assigns a project manager for the 5-12 week process, and children help design the playground of their dreams.

Matteo LaRussa
Matteo LaRussa, with help from his mom, Missy, shared his support for the new Kaboom! playground project during public comment at Monday’s city council meeting.

Farmington is being considered for either a 2500-square-foot project or one double that size, with an October build.

“This investment would represent 10% of the total project value if Farmington is selected for Project 1.) above, and this investment would represent 3% of the total project value if Farmington is selected for Project 2.) above,” City Manager David Murphy wrote in a memo. “Taking all things into consideration, the actual cost to the city could be between $12,200 and $29,000. Both of those amounts include the $8,500 match and represent the best and worst case scenario.”

While projects are typically done with community volunteers and fundraising, the city signs as a “community partner,” and that left some council members with questions during conversations at their special and regular meetings on Monday.

In addition to the $8,500, the agreement would require removal of existing equipment, preparation of soils, and other items. Council member Bill Galvin was concerned about the demand on the city’s Public Services Department and that many people don’t understand this is a “do it yourself” project.

“There’s no objection to upgrading the park,” he said. “The objections are really more concerns that we do this correctly that we watch our dollars, and our time commitment.”

Galvin suggested that the Flanders and Oaks neighborhoods should create a homeowners association, fundraise through that organization, and bypass the city council entirely.

Community support

Residents who packed council chambers and spoke during public comment assured officials that they were committed to volunteering and fundraising. Resident Steve Baumbach said improving the park would increase property values, a boon for the city.

“I would like to contribute my time, my skills and I am also willing to contribute financially to the success of this project,” Steve Baumbach said. “I have a four-year-old and another one on the way, so we’ll be at the park for the next 15 years.”

Matt Green said the park project would create community. “If we got this many people here now, I guarantee you we can have people behind it.”

Sarah Davies, who worked with city officials on a grand opening celebration for Flanders Park, said it is the closest city park for 420 homeowners and 220 apartment dwellers on the south side of the city.

“If you’re concerned about money, I will head fundraising, and I’ll get you the money within 30 days,” she said.

Non-binding Letter of Intent

Mayor Pro Tem Sara Bowman asked city attorney Thomas Schultz to clarify the Letter of Intent. Kaboom! representatives, he said, referred to the Letter as “non-binding,” and it differs from the agreement officials would have to sign before the build.

“The Letter of Intent says to Kaboom!, ‘We’re interested in the project, and we understand this general list of things we will have to agree to.’,” he said. “But you may not need to agree to those things if there’s been fundraising.”

Schultz also clarified that the letter does not tie up any city funds. Officials have $10,000 set aside in the 2018-2019 budget for Flanders Park plantings that would still be done if the Kaboom! project falls through.

After several failed motions, officials found one that got unanimous support. In the event Kaboom! finds a funding partner, city officials will then consider whether to sign the final agreement.

“We all have our fingers crossed that this project is going to go extremely well and that the community is going to engage at the level we heard tonight,” Mayor Steven Schneemann said.