Thursday, September 29, 2022

WV Residents Voice Concerns Over Dilapidated Public Park

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor
talbert.toole@hottytoddy.com

The public park located at the intersection of Central and North Court Street in Water Valley is in need of repairs and replacement, according to residents of the town. Photo by Talbert Toole (June 21, 2019).

From rotten wood to broken equipment, the public park located at the intersection of Central and North Court Street in Water Valley is in dire need of repair and local residents are concerned about the health and safety of area children using the park.

On Thursday, approximately 30 residents of the area met at the Mechanic’s Bank community meeting room for a public forum regarding the playground equipment at the park.

The forum was led by the Junior Auxiliary of Water Valley who in the past has run point on the condition of the park. The last time the park had been updated with new equipment was in 2000 by the JA.

Concern grew over the condition of the equipment and park itself from Water Valley resident Stephanie Ferguson-Smith, and then followed up with Curtis Godwin, who voiced his concern and opinions on a Water Valley Facebook group.

Other residents began to comment as to how he or she was also not satisfied with the conditions and how it could be a safety issue for children playing on the equipment.

At the meeting, Sandra Bennett, manager of JA, led the forum by first using a slide show of pictures depicting the problems the auxiliary believes to be of main concern with the park. Bennett displayed pictures of rotten wood, broken pieces on the main equipment, and a dilapidated fence.

“This playground set will shut down a daycare,” she said.

A section of the main playground equipment has been boarded off due to health and safety concerns from residents. Photo by Talbert Toole (June 21, 2019).

Playground equipment at daycare facilities must reach certain requirements by the state; however, because the public park is owned and operated by the city, it does not have as strict as regulations as those facilities, she explained.

Many residents, such as Godwin and Preston Boutot, both voiced to have the current dilapidated pieces replaced especially before the Water Valley Watermelon Festival which takes place on Aug. 2 and 3 in the park.

However, Bennett said after evaluating the park, the JA stands firm that it cannot condone simply replacing the equipment and believes the main structure should be upgraded and completely replaced. Although JA does not support replacements, Bennett said as individuals of JA, she and others would be more than happy to lend assistance if the plan is to replace equipment pieces.

Before any structural changes can be made to the equipment or the park itself, it must be presented to the Water Valley Board of Aldermen and the board must grant allowance for residents to begin making structural changes, according to Alderman Cinnamon Foster.

However, the city must be in charge and handle demolition procedures due to liability issues.

Joe York, a Water Valley resident, said if the structure and equipment is already a danger to children who actively play at the park, he believes in a replacement process.

“If it’s a danger today, it’s going to be a danger tomorrow,” York said.

York said as a father to two young children, he applauded the JA for bringing this issue to the forefront. He said there is a huge amount of ground support for the JA taking on the project and hopes the concern does not get lost in debate of how to fix the issue at hand even if moving forward the decision is for upgrades or replacement with new equipment.

Although two tactics are being discussed on how to handle the situation, both Bobby Turnage and York both donated $1000 each, totaling $2000, that will cover the estimated costs to repair the playground which was initially presented by Godwin to make repairs.

Both groups who want to repair and replace the playground will have the opportunity to speak before the Board of Aldermen with the same goal in mind: safety and security of a playground.

Both those in favor of repairing and demolition of the playground will speak to the Board of Aldermen on July 2 at 6:30 p.m.; Godwin and Boutot will represent those in favor of repairs (project 1) while Bennett will represent JA at the meeting for demolition and replacement of equipment (project 2) for a long term resolution.

Bennett will advocate for future plans of new equipment to the board. She also said that JA is looking into grants that would help fund replacement equipment.

Neither project is official until the aldermen grant approval.


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