Farmington city council members on Monday agreed to move forward the long-awaited Flanders Park project with a combination of public and private funds.
Supporters have raised $12,000 toward the cost of playground equipment on the former Flanders Elementary School site in the area of Flanders and Meadowlark Streets. Developed in 2017 as part of a new subdivision, the park was set to use equipment from the school, but that failed to meet safety standards.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa, who is part of the fundraising group, asked his colleagues to move $30,000 “parked” for the playscape to get it done during fiscal year 2020-2021. He suggested additional funds could come from a contingency in the city manager’s budget or “project realignment”.
“For $30,000 in a $10 million budget, I’m pretty confident that the team we have can make that work,” he said.
Mayor Sara Bowman pointed out that $20,000 for a Flanders Park walking path could be used for the playground. City Treasurer Chris Weber noted that the money could come from a $300,000 COVID-19 pandemic contingency fund, if the budget impact is less than anticipated.
Council member Steven Schneemann asked who would be responsible for designing, installing, and making payments for the equipment. LaRussa said volunteers previously worked with the Department of Public Works.
Schneemann also wondered about prepping the site and whether the cost of the playground included installation.
“I’ve donated to the project myself, I’m supportive of it, but there’s just a lot of questions,” he said. “It just seems like there’s a lot of moving parts.”
LaRussa said volunteers have already looked at systems ranging from $65,000 to $85,000 in cost, and felt one on the lower end that accommodates 18-24 children at a time would work. He said the site had already been prepped, and only needed some mulch removed and replaced.
“I think it would be nice thing to do,” Schneemann said. “The Flanders people… I think they’ve been waiting a long time for this. I would want to see some sort of plan set up and somebody responsible in the city.”
LaRussa said if the city pursues the project, it would be competitively bid.
“I am simply asking the council to park the resources, allow this to go to bid, and come back and talk about it,” LaRussa said. “Putting it in the budget solidifies the commitment.”
City Manager David Murphy said a council consensus was enough to put the item into the budget, and all officials indicated their support.
During public comment, resident Steve Baumbach and Sarah Davies, both Flanders Park volunteers, thanked officials and offered to help move the project forward.
“Our community has worked really hard to raise $12,000… for three years we’ve been trying to get this park done, so it’s good to see some action,” he said. “Our children will love this more than any of us can really imagine.“