December 13, 2012TUFTONBORO — Should the town-owned playground at Tuftonboro Central School be repaired or replaced? Mary Ann Murray, Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee, came before the Board of Selectmen on Dec. 10 to discuss the Primex Insurance report on playground safety issues.
Primex, the town's insurance carrier, has enumerated various causes of concern and has asked that the town produce a plan no later than June 1, 2013, to address them. Murray said that she has investigated each of the items pointed out in the report, consulting with the school's custodian in the process, and has come up with prices for replacement of some parts of playground equipment, decks with rounded rather than sharp edges, a new ladder and a new section of tube for an apparatus, and has looked into the cost of resurfacing options.
The insurance company recommends a depth of surfacing that will absorb a greater fall height. Code officer Jack Parsons told the board that shredded rubber is the best but also the most expensive option. Wood chips and pea stone are additional options.
Murray offered a rough estimate of around $12,000 for repairs. The cost of a new playground may cost as much as $35,000. The board asked Murray to investigate further and invite a representative of a playground construction company to visit the site to develop a more specific estimate. It also questioned whether the $35,000 figure included installation and wondered what the cost would be to dismantle the old equipment. Murray was amenable to researching further.
Parsons offered the opinion that a five-year fix at one quarter the cost of complete replacement would be foolish.
Murray objected to comments at the last selectmen's meeting that the recreation committee could use money raised from its recent 5K race event in its revolving fund for the playground. She explained that the money in that account allows the committee to offer recreational programs and special events, such as the Easter Egg Hunt, throughout the year. Murray added that the PTCO is willing to raise money for the playground improvements, but that would not likely be a significant amount.
Moving on to another recreation matter, Selectman Carolyn Sundquist asked Murray for a more detailed plan from the committee describing the use of the house on the Gould property. Murray has proposed a warrant article for $10,000 for electrical and plumbing work.
"It would be an ideal meeting area," answered Murray, who suggested that the Boy Scouts could use it and perhaps senior activities could take place there. It has a kitchen, several rooms downstairs and an attic for storage.
The electricity to the building has been taken out of service and committee member Ted Bense said that getting electricity set up again inside the building must be addressed first. The committee has a quote from Michael Phelps on the inside electricity and plumbing, but nothing can be done until the connections are reestablished.
Sundquist wondered what was involved, what costs are entailed and whether the building would then be ready for use. Would all safety concerns be addressed?
Murray asked the board what direction the town wants to go in developing its recreation programs. She stated her disappointment that the Budget Committee took out her request on behalf of the Recreation Committee for $5,000 in the operating budget for a paid position.
It has been called variously a stipend and a salaried position. The sticking point, according to Sundquist, who represents the board on the Budget Committee, was that the estimated number of hours, based on five a week, amounted to a $20 an hour position. Murray responded that the person would likely end up working more hours than that and end up being compensated about $5 an hour in the final analysis.
In her view, if the recreation programs are going to continue to grow, a manager is needed to coordinate the programs, continue the communication with the Wolfeboro Recreation Department, run by Ethan Hipple, which resulted in the listing of Tuftonboro's activities in his seasonal brochure for example, and maintain the infrastructure.
She pointed out that Bense, sitting beside her, is nearing 80, does a lot of repairs and odd jobs on a volunteer basis, and for the past two years, she has voluntarily run the swim programs and overseen the development of new activities for residents as well as taken responsibility for researching costs for playground repair or replacement. The Gould house is another project that needs more attention.
Volunteers are essential to the development and operation of recreational activities (new trails at the Gould site are another example), and in her opinion, it would be very helpful to have someone taking on the management of them.
It is apparent that the Parks and Recreation Committee has more work to do to satisfy financial questions as it prepares to present its case to the budget committee on Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m., at the town offices building.