Both Smithfield and Clayton are deep into plans to bring universal playgrounds to Johnston County, with Smithfield’s slated to be the county’s first when it opens later this year.
Smithfield thought it was ready to get started on its inclusion playground and Miracle League ball field earlier this spring. But the town said it had to regroup after the company awarded the work wouldn’t sign the contract.
In January, the town awarded the work to Florida company Professional Services Group LLC. But Town Manager Michael Scott said earlier this month that the company had not signed the contract.
“We’ve had difficulty getting Professional Services to sign the contract that was provided during the bid process,” Scott said. “I received an email from them yesterday saying they would not be able to enter into a contract unless we signed a contract to suit them. ... We’ve come to an impasse.”
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The bid the town council accepted in January was around $400,000, or about $100,000 under budget. The town split the work for the playground in two after two failed bidding attempts came back with quotes way over the project’s $700,000 budget.
Now Smithfield is giving the work to J.P. Edwards, with a bid of around $485,000. The town council quickly approved the bid earlier this month out of Scott’s fear the company might get another project, leaving the town back at square one.
“It’s a little higher, but still within the budget for what we’re trying to do,” Scott said. “The Professional Services bid was considerably under budget, which was really nice for us, but perhaps that’s one reason we’re not following through. This is a more realistic bid.”
It seemed as if the biggest hurdle for Smithfield’s inclusion playground, the funding, had already been cleared. Through fundraising and grants, the $700,000 has already been collected or confirmed. Scott said the Partnership for Children of Johnston County and the Miracle League of Johnston County, the two groups leading the project and providing some of the funding, had signed off on the higher bid.
“They’ve agreed to this dollar amount,” Scott said.
Councilman Perry Harris questioned Smithfield’s legal standing in abandoning one bid in favor of another. Smithfield attorney Bob Spence said the town could do it.
“There are numerous, substantial changes to the contract that we felt could lead us to more problems,” Spence said of negotiations with Professional Services Group.
In Clayton, the fundraising part of building its Celebration Playground has proved to be a challenge, leading to something of a stall last year. In November, though, a marketing came on board, and the town said it was recommitted to the project.
Since then, things have started to come together. A state grant will give around $90,000 to the project, and at this week’s Clayton Town Council meeting, Ccouncilman Michael Grannis said donations had put the town more than halfway to the $700,000 goal.
“I have a bit of an update on the universal playground,” Grannis said. “We have firm commitments on a little in excess of $350,000 for the park. I’m not at liberty to divulge where those funds are coming from at this stage, but I did want you to know that. I am quite excited about what the organization doing the fundraising is doing.”