Construction is slated at Mingo and Smith parks this summer.

Construction is slated at Mingo and Smith parks this summer.

The rehabilitation is one element of the parks plan that the city's recreation field subcommittee recommended to Delaware City Council on May 23. The plan includes improvements to Mingo, Smith, Kensington, Stratford and Houk Road parks.

Kensington and Stratford are in the Kensington and Stratford Woods subdivisions, respectively. The Houk Road park will be at the new YMCA.

The city plans to spend about $3,320,150 on improvements to Mingo, Smith, and Houk Road parks. Funds for Kensington and Stratford parks improvements are coming from park fees paid by developers, said Delaware community affairs coordinator Lee Yoakum.

City council on May 23 approved a $300,000 appropriation for a splash pad at Houk Road Park, bringing the total planned improvements to about $3,620,150.

Rough estimates show that the costs now exceed the available parks levy balance by about $572,960.

"Estimates are always high," Mayor Gary Milner told ThisWeek, saying that the YMCA community center cost was lower than expected. He expects the same thing to happen with park estimates.

Milner said he doesn't expect there to be a funding shortage once the projects go out to bid. "We are extremely confident that we will not have to prioritize anything," he said.

At the meeting, Milner, who is chairman of the recreation field subcommittee, voiced concern over starting rehabilitation in a timely manner since the YMCA community center would be completed about the end of September. People interested in field improvements will question what has been done so far, he said.

"Your constituents are going to come looking for you, or they're going to come looking for us to find out who delayed these projects, because we have this beautiful rec center and we have absolutely no field improvements to show for it because we're dragging our feet," Milner said.

Council approved a selection of improvements to Mingo and Smith parks for this summer's construction season. The city engineer's office will take the projects out to bid. The projects will come back to council at some point before the bid is awarded, Milner said. That should be either during the council's last meeting in June or the first meeting in July.

At Mingo, improvements include soccer field grading, reconstruction of the walking path, construction of a new parking lot and rehabilitation of the old parking lot. At Smith, improvements include reconstruction of the walking path, softball field rehabilitation, and construction of a new parking lot. Construction is projected to begin between Aug.15 and Sept. 30.

Milner told ThisWeek that council ultimately has to vote on park improvements. Generally, however, they agree with committee recommendations.

"You'd think that it would be left up to the committee that's worked on this for the last two-and-a-half years, but it appears that some members of council would like to make those decisions," he said.

During the meeting, council member Lisa Keller asked, "How does a committee come before city council and recommend a plan that's short $272,000?"

"These numbers get changed daily. If you want a plan that shows that we are exactly on the nose, we can do that. We can adjust all those numbers to where it shows zero. Is that what you want?" Milner asked.

Keller said no, saying, "I don't understand how I'm supposed to approve this, or say that I'm in support of this when we're saying we want more things than we have the money to pay for."

"If we don't have enough money, we can't get all these things," Milner responded.

Director of engineering services Bill Ferrigno said the estimates are as close as they could get with "preliminary concepts regarding the improvements.

"When we have real bid costs, then we'll know exactly what each one of these items are," he said.

Keller also requested that council add the splash pad being discussed for Houk Road to the list of improvements.

"In the field committee's defense, this was not something that was in their planning process or on their radar the entire way through." Instead, she said, it had been discussed by the city building committee.

"If we're $272,000 short, what's another $300,000?" Keller said of the splash pad, which council ultimately added to the list.

The six-member recreation field subcommittee also includes representatives of youth sports organizations that use the fields, the city's recreation department and the city school district, Milner told ThisWeek. The committee worked on the parks improvements list since the beginning of 2009.

"Every one of these improvements is absolutely needed," Milner said.

At Mingo Park, future possible improvements include the demolition of the bathroom and concession stand outside the new recreation office. Another building containing a restroom and concession stand would be built.

At Smith Park, two buildings containing restrooms and concession stands would be built. Half-court basketball courts would be added to Stratford and Kensington parks.

At Houk Road Park, a large and small playground would be added, along with a few shelters, one concession stand and a restroom building.