Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The Robert C. Carpenter Building and Wesley’s Park are two of the most utilized facilities maintained by the county and with years of wear and tear, both facilities are slated for significant improvements in the coming months.

At last Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, County Manager Derek Roland presented county leaders with cost estimates to repair and replace the playground equipment as well as the ground covering at the park. According to Roland, the repairs will cost between $100,000 to $110,000. The county will pay for the project from the county’s fund balance which is currently at $18.5 million.

Wesley’s Park was an addition to the Greenway spearheaded by members of the community 14 years ago. Macon County Recreation Director Seth Adams noted that while the playground equipment at the park is 14 years old, the actual anticipated life span of the equipment was 10 years for that kind of equipment. Several pieces of the playground equipment are in extremely poor condition posing a safety hazard for the children who use the park, noted Roland.

“While we are approaching this project in a conservative manner, the repairs we are planning are going to be top notch,” said Roland. “We are going to bring the playground back up to a five-star facility for the community.”

Plans for the project include repairing what equipment can be repaired and replacing all damaged equipment. The rubber matting covering the ground is  in such poor condition, Roland said it will have to be replaced entirely. Adams said that all of the slides on the equipment will need to be repaired due to extensive wear and tear. “The plastic play feature for younger children on the upper part of the park needs to be completely replaced with a new structure,” said Adams. “The county will try to salvage what equipment it can, but most of it will have to be replaced because of the age and poor condition of the equipment.”

Also located at Wesley’s Park, a water feature heavily utilized during the summer months is also in need of repair. The water feature was built based on community donations and wasn’t part of the original plans for Wesley’s Park. Although the community raised the funds to build the water feature and the county allowed the project to be added to Wesley’s Park, the maintenance on the water feature wasn’t assigned to any one organization.

The Friends of the Greenway (FROGs), a volunteer group who helps manage the Greenway and the parks such as Wesley’s Park along the route, made a request to the Town of Franklin for $5,000 to replace the computer and bring the water feature back to original working condition. Town officials denied FROGs request with Mayor Bob Scott saying he believed that the water feature should be maintained by the county since it is located on county property.

Alderman Barbara McRae and Joe Collins noted that town residents heavily utilize the park and the town should look at a way to partner with the county on the maintenance since the water feature was not part of the county’s original footprint for the park and instead was added by the community.

Although the town denied the request from FROGS for the water feature as a part of the non-profit funding, Mayor Scott did recommend the town may consider funding the project from budget contingency funds. The town board directed Town Manager Summer Woodard to contact Roland to see if they can come up with an agreement to get the water feature fixed during the park’s renovation process.

The county would like to make the improvements to the park during the upcoming slower months to take advantage of the time when fewer children use the park. Because the project exceeds $30,000, the project will need to be bid out.

A price tag hasn’t been placed on the Robert C. Carpenter community building, but based on the proposed renovation project passed out last week, the entire facility will get a significant facelift. The county plans to work with architect Tom Ritter to go room by room in the community building to upgrade the building from top to bottom.

From removing and replacing existing glaze on the floors, to new handicapped parking spaces, to permanent benches in the waiting room, to new cabinets and LED lighting throughout the building to a new floor in the gym, the project scope on the carpenter building spans four pages and will be prioritized.

The renovation project will be completed in phases to allow the community building to remain in use while renovations are being completed.

Commissioner Paul Higdon asked Adams if it might be better to completely rebuild the community building to serve as more of an event center, but Adams said the current building is sufficient although an event center might be an economic investment the county can pursue separately at another time.