Delaware's Smith Park will get a $1.167-million facelift this year if city council approves a plan proposed at its Jan. 23 meeting by Don Shannon, city parks and recreation advisory board chairman.

Delaware's Smith Park will get a $1.167-million facelift this year if city council approves a plan proposed at its Jan. 23 meeting by Don Shannon, city parks and recreation advisory board chairman.

"Smith has a history of problems due to a lack of funding and shortcuts taken early in the park's career," Shannon told ThisWeek.

"I play softball two nights a week and umpire, too. When they moved the adult leagues out to Smith back in the late 1990s, it was with the understanding that development was booming and that there would soon be water and sewer at the park. It's 15 years later and we're still using Porta- Johns," he said.

John Kuhn spoke at the meeting in favor of Smith Park improvements.

"I wish you guys would finish that park," the local resident said. "Make it a jewel of Delaware. You have the opportunity."

Another Smith Park neighbor, Rodney Welsh, called the portable toilet situation "atrocious" and "unclean."

"And we only have Porta-Johns out there during softball season," Shannon said, "so residents using the walking trails during the winter don't have any restroom facilities at all."

The advisory board has proposed several major improvements to Smith this year, including paving 5,600 lineal feet of park trails, adding 82 parking spaces to the park's surface lot, and constructing restroom, storage and concession facilities at the park's north and south ends.

"Smith Park has a rectangular configuration, and so it really can't be served efficiently by a single restroom-storage-concession building," Shannon said.

The city's engineering department has received initial bids totaling $567,800 for both buildings, Shannon said. Work could begin as early as April and be concluded by the end of August, he said.

At the request of councilwoman Lisa Keller, the advisory board revamped an earlier proposal to allow for significant improvements at Houk Park, including construction of a $400,000 to $455,000 restroom-storage-concession building, with work scheduled in 2013.

"I'd like to see an itemized list of how much we're spending at each park and where the money is coming from," Keller said.

City manager Tom Homan said funds for the Houk Park improvements would come from the existing parks and recreation levy balance of $320,000, and from $300,000 saved by postponing minor improvements to both Mingo and Smith parks.

Shannon said the deferments would include items such as landscaping, park benches and scoreboards.

"We also found savings in construction costs," Shannon said. "We initially received an estimate for the restrooms from the city engineer's department of anywhere from $125 to $250 a square foot. But we received an initial bid at $154 a square foot. So that leaves us with money left over."

Councilman Andrew Brush said he, too, was interested in a definitive breakdown of how much money will be spent and where.

Work at Mingo is further along than at any other city park. Shannon said work completed in 2011 includes a new concrete parking lot next to the skate park, sewer and water services for the new restroom, four acres of new play field space, grading of the soccer fields and new backstops for Daily and Ziegler fields.

"Unfortunately, we had so much rain in the fall that we're behind schedule at Mingo," Shannon told council. "But we plan to get in there just as soon as we can in the spring and finish everything up that we began in 2011."

Other projects planned at Mingo in 2012 include a new Little League field fence, three new ballfields, grading three existing fields ($50,000) and the construction of three additional backstops ($14,000).

Less ambitious projects proposed at Stratford and Kensington parks for 2012 include paved walking trails around the perimeters of each park and tree plantings. Each park will be tilled and seeded.

Council won't vote on the proposal until its next meeting at the earliest, so city manager Tom Homan can give council specific numbers.

"The delay is more of an annoyance than anything else," Shannon said. "My only concern would be if the contractor lines up more jobs between now and the time city council votes and tells us in a couple of weeks, 'We can't get to your job now until later in the spring or summer.' That would be disappointing."