Three meetings and over three hours of discussion later, commissioners gave Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Polaski the OK to apply for a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant that will pay for what commissioners see as much-needed improvements to Wendell Park.
The board settled on a proposal that requires the town to pay $306,250 over three years but cuts out bathroom improvements at the park.
Commissioners originally asked Polaski to apply for the highly competitive grant in September but became hesitant when the town’s share of the grant could be over $500,000 for the more expensive option that would have created larger bathroom facilities.
Wendell’s proposal includes adding a multipurpose field, creating an ADA-compliant walking trail, an additional playground, parking lot, game area for bocce, shuffleboard and horsehoe pits and an optional picnic and restroom facility.
With the restroom and picnic facility, which would need to be converted from a septic system to the town’s sewer system, the project would cost $831,250. The town would be required to pay $581,250.
But commissioners said the bathrooms will have to be addressed, even if it means using other money.
Commissioner Jon Boyette said he’d be willing to wait on a new multipurpose field to make sure bathrooms are renovated.
“I’d hate to build another field and be woefully under-bathroomed,” he said.
One option the board floated depends on the outcome of the PARTF application. The town can budget part of their required payment for the next fiscal year but if the grant is not approved, they can use the same budgeted money toward bathroom improvements.
There weren’t any specific options laid out to pay for new bathrooms if the grant was approved and awarded to the town, but Mayor Tim Hinnant made it clear it needs to be a priority.
“We cannot spend that much money on a park and not address the bathroom issue,” he said.
With numerous weekend tournaments and a limited number of bathroom stalls, commissioners thought redoing the bathroom facility should be a priority. In his presentations to the board, Polaski explained that the major cost of completing that renovation was moving the building off a septic tank and hooking it to town water.
Other higher cost parts of the grant application include creating a new multipurpose field, which is estimated to cost about $120,000. A playground is estimated to cost about $90,000 and a new paved parking lot with 80 additional spaces is an estimated $85,000.
Even those projects are not enough to take the commissioners’ and mayor’s attention from the lack of bathroom work.
“We can’t have a first-class facility and not have enough bathrooms,” Hinnant said.
Polaski told the board it was possible to complete the work on the park in one calendar year and split the payment over two fiscal years.