FREDERICKTOWN — Washington County officials are already working toward setting up next year’s budget, which goes into effect July 1, and continued improvements at the Fredericktown park will be among the focal points.
In recent years, the park has been transformed with the resurfacing of the basketball and tennis courts and parking area, improvement of the walking track and re-roofing of the pavilion, as well as other upgrades, but one big problem remains.
“The biggest problem and the greatest priority at the Fredericktown park now is the playground equipment,” said Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles. “The big, primary piece of playground equipment has gotten to the point that we don’t have a choice. It’s got to be removed.”
The members of fiscal court have had their eye on replacing the piece, which Settles said was installed in the late 1980s or early 1990s, for a while now. They’ve applied for grant help for at least three-straight years, but it’s looking less likely every year that financial help will be coming from outside the county.
“The grants that we were writing for, and this is the third or fourth time that we had applied for a Land and Water Conservation grant, were denied again,” Settles said. “The overall pot of money has shrunk, therefore it’s harder to get those.”
“I wish we could have gotten that grant, but the budget has just gotten too tight,” added magistrate Greg Simms, whose district includes the park. “I think there were around 80 applicants this year and only something like 14 of them were accepted. We’ll probably apply for it again, but obviously it’s getting hard to get those grants.”
With hopes of a grant being demoted to back-up plan status, the county will now have to weigh its options going forward. Safety is of course the first concern, regardless of what decisions are made at fiscal court in the coming months.
“My plans now are to go ahead with the road department and remove the big piece of equipment, because it is too dangerous for kids to be on,” Settles said. “I’m planning to put money aside in the next budget to try to replace that major piece and it’s unbelievable how expensive that stuff is.”
The advertised prices that Settles and the magistrates had looked at when applying for grant money were in the neighborhood of $27,000, although the area at the Fredericktown park could support a piece of equipment in the $60,000 range.
Simms said a complete overhaul of playground equipment isn’t necessary, so keeping the cost of the project at a minimum should prove to be manageable.
“Some of the equipment is in good shape and just needs to be repainted,” he said. “The big piece with the slide is made of wood and some of that has started to rot out. We tried to get replacement parts a couple of years ago, but the company that made the playground set has gone out of business, which led to us trying to get grants.”
Funds, time and resources will be major factors in how the process of attaining new equipment unfolds, but making the facilities accessible for everyone will remain a primary concern as it has been in previous park upgrades.
“What’s there has been sand all along and that’s not approved for handicap accessibility for children and adults in wheelchairs,” Settles said. “We could put down a rubber base or something similar, but that’s yet to be determined. I would say we’ll probably compromise and try to put something in for $30,000 or less, but there needs to be something down there because that park is used by people in the community who have large gatherings. It’s our responsibility and we’re going to have to do something with it.”
If plans to remove the current playground set and the inclusion of new equipment in the upcoming budget continue as expected, Washington Countians that use the Fredericktown park regularly could see the changes take place this fall.
In the more immediate future for Fredericktown, drivers on U.S. 150 will notice (if they haven’t already) that delays can be expected sporadically as state road workers replace two bridges, one in Washington County and one in Nelson County.
Settles acknowledged that the work is a state project, but said that he’s paying close attention to the process. According to information he’d received, workers are operating under a strict 120-day window, and the new bridges will be constructed to the right-hand side of commuters traveling West from Springfield to Bardstown. Construction is expected to wrap up mid-spring.