story by Ryan Saylor
Downtown leaders Tuesday (March 18) moved to request more city funding in order to cover an overage in the cost of a planned splash pad at Compass Park after changes in the project bumped the cost to $350,000, about $50,000 over budget.
Originally, the Central Business Improvement District and the Fort Smith Parks and Recreation Department had agreed to jointly fund equal halves of the planned splash pad at a cost of $150,000 each. But after modifications, engineer Bobby Aldridge of Frontier Engineering said the price spiked.
The changes included adding so-called "fountains in a can," which would remove in-ground water jets in favor of 10 "can fountains," which shoot water and beam light from the ground during the evening hours. The change in design moved the cost for in-ground features of the splash pad from $62,000 to $117,900, almost double the cost.
Also adding to the cost, Aldridge said, was the addition of an above-ground filtration system that would be housed near the splash pad and would include infrastructure for possible future restroom facilities.
In order to fund the overage without having to cut features, the CBID voted to request the city take money originally allocated for relocation of the railroad maintenance facility behind Miss Laura's and instead use it to cover the overage on the splash pad and to pay for installation of screening and fencing to shield the maintenance yard from view of park goers.
According to Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman, use of the money was possible since talks between the city and Union Pacific Railroad have stalled regarding the maintenance yard relocation.
"We met with Union Pacific in October and they defined infrastructure costs," he said, explaining that Union Pacific's request for infrastructure such as new safety crossings would cost more than the city was able to afford on the project. Dingman added that "our idea was to exchange land," and that a little more than $200,000 was set aside to help with the maintenance yard relocation.
Dingman said the reason the money may be released by the city for use on the other two projects was largely because the city did not know when talks with Union Pacific would resume regarding the rail yard.
"We've not given up long term," he said. "But with an undefined timeline … if we could define (dates on when we could move the rail yard), we'd still be working for it."
In addition to asking for money to fund the overage on the splash pad and pay for the screening, the CBID also approved a bid from local landscape architect Timothy Shale for $3,500 to design the screening that would divide the park and the railroad maintenance yard. The donation from Shale included a donation of $1,000 in landscaping.
In other business, CBID members heard from Michael LeJong of MAHG Architecture regarding the lighting of the Garrison Avenue Bridge.
The original proposal would have the CBID joining with the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department and Oklahoma Gas and Electric (OG&E) to add aesthetically pleasing lighting to the bridge, versus the standard lighting that is on the bridge today.
LeJong presented several different options to the CBID to consider, ranging from multi-colored lighting under the bridge to installing period light poles on the bridge, similar to what is already installed down Garrison Avenue from the bridge to Rogers Avenue.
The CBID instructed LeJong to design proposals that would focus on lighting of the top of the bridge, removing any consideration for lighting the underside of the bridge. He has been asked to return to a future meeting with cost estimates for both full design and installation.