BY ANDREAS YILMA
PROSPECT — The Hotchkiss Field playground may get an upgrade to improve handicapped accessibility.
The Town Council is talking about replacing the center island portion of the roughly 25-year old playground at 59 Waterbury Road. Officials have received two bids. Officials are determining whether to use the town’s federal COVID-19 relief money, or American Rescue Plan Act funds.
One bid from O’Brien & Sons is for $234,775. The price includes the installation of an inclusive playground structure, an omnispin spinner and either playground mulch or engineered wood fiber.
The other bid was from River Valley Landscapes for about $420,000. The price includes a playground structure, an inclusive merry-go-round and either engineered wood fiber surfacing or poured in place rubber surfacing.
“The design is to replace in the center island there.” Prospect Park and Recreation director Chris Moffo said. “The swings, the new stuff we put in, all those things there on the perimeter are all going to stay. This is just the center footprint there at the park.”
Prospect Park and Recreation Director Chris Moffo said. “The swings, the new stuff we put in, all those things there on the perimeter are all going to stay. This is just the center footprint there at the park.”
Officials questioned the differences between the playground having mulch or a poured-in rubber surfacing.
“Over the course of replacing playground mulch and the sweeping and raking and reinstalling this, all of our playgrounds are mulch that compacts and deteriorates over time. It gets kicked out of the way,” Moffo said. “The poured in place, which is present at Prospect Elementary School, at this time would be… would be more cost effective. However, there are issues with the poured in place (such as chipping and vandalism).”
O’Brien & Sons uses Playcraft materials and Rivervalley uses landscape structures for pieces, Moffo said.
Board of Recreation member Leah Pankake, who has a 7-year old child that has Down syndrome with an ankle disability but doesn’t require a wheelchair, said the wood chips are ADA compliant for a fall but are not ADA compliant for wheelchair accessibility.
Pankake said her son prefers to go to Bartlem Park in Cheshire compared to Hotchkiss. The Cheshire park is bigger and has poured in place surfacing to help with accessibility.
“One of my biggest things for my son is that he is included in the community and he can play with his peers. He doesn’t have to go to Cheshire and play with the kids there who he doesn’t know,” Pankake said. “I feel like that there’s a lot of families in town, I mean I know this, that they do go to other towns to go to their parks because there’s more things to do, they’re more up to date, they have some inclusive equipment and things like that. I think it would be great for the kids that do live in Prospect to be able to spend more time here, to go to the town park and be able to enjoy all of that.”
Town Council Chairman Jeffrey Slapikas said all the town council members agreed with Pankake.
“The comments on wheelchair accessibility is important because we as a council did discuss making that playground fully handicapped-accessible,” Town Council member Larry Fitzgerald said.
“We have to look out for all the tax dollars but we also have to look out what’s best for everybody. You gave a great opportunity,” Slapikas said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or 100 people. We still have to try to accommodate everybody.”
Town Council member Patricia S. Geary said she thinks town officials need to be realistic about the playground.
“Is this a need or is it a want? How are we going to pay for this if we were to go with this which looks like quite a proposal frankly, positively?” Geary said.