BENNINGTON — With springtime weather on the immediate horizon — hopefully — crews are working to make repairs and finish the new playgrounds at Willow Park, trying to get the recreation area open as soon as possible.
The issue came up at Monday’s Bennington Select Board meeting, when member Jeanne Conner asked town officials, “Do we have an approximate date when construction will resume on Willow Park, now that the weather is getting a little warmer?”
“It’s very much on all of our minds,” responded Jonah Spivak, Bennington communications coordinator. Spivak said he plans to meet with the project coordinator on Thursday for an update.
“Everyone in the community has been thinking the same thing,” he added.
“My grandson is anxious, which means I’m anxious,” said Bruce Lee-Clark, who was attending his last Board meeting since choosing not to seek reelection.
Spivak added, “The short answer is we don’t know exactly, but it will be soon.” He said progress was made last fall in laying the rubberized surfaces on the two playgrounds before it was halted by snow and cold weather. “What remains is a final coat of rubber on certain areas of the playgrounds, swing installation, finishing the curbing around the exercise area, as well as a few other punch list items.”
He said the town is working with the vendor, Play By Design, to see when the final fixes can be completed. “We need warmer temperatures and at least three days of no rain prior to them doing the work.”
Spivak said once completed, a final inspection will be done, and certification of the new playgrounds issued.
One of the most significant problems was the curbing around the exercise area, which R.J. Joly, director of Public Works, spotted was done incorrectly.
“Now that warm weather approaches, we understand and share the frustration of the community that this project has taken much longer than planned,” Spivak told the Board. “The original timeline went awry when staff discovered problems with the vendor’s original curbing and other issues. Ensuring that the new playgrounds are completed properly has been and must remain our focus.”
The $500,000 project was funded with federal ARPA money, he noted in an interview this week.
“We’re holding the vendor accountable for everything they are supposed to do and making sure it’s done right,” Spivak told the Banner.
He said the town hopes to get Willow Park open by around April 17, but the playgrounds might take longer.
The upper playground is designed for toddlers to age 5; the lower playground is for ages 6 and older. Both require additional work before opening.
“In a perfect world they have it done this April,” Spivak said. “But I’ve been warned not to promise a date.”