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CURA gives playground site to city

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The city will gain a playground beside the Roosevelt Neighborhood Center in the East End, at little cost to taxpayers, thanks to action by Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members Wednesday.

In addition, CURA members agreed to kick in an extra $8,985 to finish the first phase of the long-awaited East End community park off Dixie Street. Construction could start by the end of the year, its designer said, assuming City Council approves the contract Monday.

City employees could start assembling the playground at 1512 Jackson St. early next year, said John Charnock, director of the Parks and Recreation Department. It is one of three sites across the city, which includes Magic Island and Sugar Creek, which will get new playground equipment through a grant from the Keys for Healthy Kids program.

CURA bought the Jackson Street site -- a small vacant lot between two apartment houses -- for $5,000 after it was targeted for recreation in the 2005 East End Community Renewal Plan, Edwards said. It's two doors down from the neighborhood center.

"Roosevelt is landlocked," Charnock said. "We don't have outdoor space. This property on Jackson Street, they can walk down the sidewalk or get there from the gym through the alley."

CURA board members agreed to give the site to the city and to pay for a fence around the property, up to $7,500.

Construction costs for the first phase of the Dixie Street park, with a few add-ons, total just over $500,000, Edwards said. That includes up to $35,000 to bury electrical cables, $10,000 to remove contaminated soil and $25,200 to install decorative pavers under the shade structure/amphitheater, said Dave Gilmore of GAI Consultants, the designers.

Although the city has agreed to pay the cost of soil removal, the project is still $34,185 over the funds on hand, Gilmore said.

But when he asked CURA to cover the extra expense, some board members balked. The agency has spent an estimated $400,000 to buy the site and has promised $260,000 for construction.

"It's a great project but I've always been a cheerleader for, 'can we trim it down some?'" said Diane Strong-Treister. "We haven't seen any dirt fly. This is a ton of money and we haven't seen anything yet."

Andrew Jordon said the underground electric work should be a higher priority than the pavers, which were an optional add-on. Board members also wanted to know how much it will cost to finish the park.

After an anonymous donor agreed to pay for the pavers, board members agreed to cover the cost of the underground cables.

In other business Wednesday, board members got a first look at -- but took no action on -- a draft loan policy.

"After we received a request from the Rev. [Matthew] Watts, it was mentioned we don't have a loan policy, and should we even make loans?" said CURA Chairman Jack Cavender. "This is just a proposal."

Board members will submit written questions about the policy and consider the plan at their January meeting.Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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