The El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission took its shot last week with a funding request that was presented to the El Dorado Works Board to improve city parks.
However, the shot rolled off the rim as commissioners, for the second time in four months, were advised they have more work to do to satisfy questions and requests from the EWB for a more detailed plan.
Last December, the EPPC presented a $993,450 funding request to the EWB to purchase equipment and complete projects to upgrade several city parks.
One such project is to asphalt the 2.25-mile recreational trail that encircles Lions Club Municipal Golf Course, Union County Fairgrounds and the El Dorado School District soccer fields.
The estimated cost of the project is $164,000.
Another component is $207,360 in equipment purchases, including a greens roller, greens sprayer, sweeper, sod cutter, small backhoe, fairway mower, utility cart, aerator and dump trailer that would be used at the Lions Club golf course, the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex and other city parks, as needed.
The El Dorado Works Board administers the one-cent city sales tax that is earmarked for economic development, municipal infrastructure and quality-of-life projects.
Fifteen percent of the sales tax is dedicated to community development projects/quality-of-life initiatives, with 6% directed toward parks and playgrounds, including sports, recreational and outdoor venues/projects.
The EWB vets proposed projects, and if approved, the proposals are then forwarded to the El Dorado City Council for final consideration.
After listening to the EPPC request in December, the EWB asked commissioners to flesh out the plan and specify such details as which park the EPPC expects to start with, how many parks are included in the plan and a timeline for completion of the improvement project.
The EPPC returned April 13 with a revised plan that listed the recreational trail and equipment purchases as phase one.
The second phase calls for:
• Installation of public restrooms in several city parks.
• Resurfacing the tennis courts in Mellor Park and striping the courts for pickleball.
• Fencing, leveling, hydro-seeding and irrigation for the field in Neel Park. The field is used heavily for soccer.
Commissioners are also considering McKinney Park on East Beech Street as a soccer park with leveling and hydro-seeding, saying that they plan to speak with local soccer leagues about the idea. McKinney was decommissioned as a city park and designated as green space in a master parks plan that was drafted for the city in 2008.
• New picnic tables, BBQ grills, water fountains and benches for several city parks.
Another element of phase two is the renovation of the Mattocks Park swimming pool and pool house and expansion of the basketball courts in Mattocks Park.
Commissioners are weighing cost options and the feasibility of renovating the pool, bringing it up to state codes and its continued operation versus new construction with a smaller swimming pool and a new water feature, such as a splash pad.
After presenting the revised plan April 13, commissioners and EWB members concluded there had been a misunderstanding about the type of details the EWB needed to make an informed decision about the funding request.
A lengthy discussion ensued and frustrations bubbled up at times.
At the top of the meeting, Greg Downum, chairman of the EWB, offered some clarification about the matter.
“I think part of our request was really around understanding the full scope of work that the parks commission wants to do, from beginning to end, the entirety of everything you guys want to do, not just breaking it down into pieces” Downum explained.
He said the EWB wanted to determine if the improvement plan is a “one, two, 10-year endeavor,” the full list of proposed projects and costs “as accurately as we can get them.”
“I thought that’s what we did last time,” said Ken Goudy, chairman of the EPPC.
“No, you brought us a wish list of dollar amounts but things weren’t prioritized,” Downum replied. “We didn’t have a clear vision of what the entirety of the work was going to be. That’s my recollection.”
EWB member Sara Coffman then asked if phase one projects were the EPPC’s priority.
Goudy said the EPPC would have to return to the EWB later for some of the projects that “need to be done.”
For example, gathering information on improvements that are needed for the Mattocks Park swimming pool, the city’s only public pool, will take some time to complete.
Downum said the EWB is asking for such details to be included in the funding proposal as a “one-time ask.”
“So, we can know, as we start down this path, is the total bill going to be $100,000, $5 million or whatever the number is so we can understand …,” Downum said.
Goudy interjected, saying costs and cost estimates, based on bid amounts, were included in the EPPC’s presentation in December.
Coffman insisted that the previous proposal “was just a wish list” and EWB member Mumtaz MF said the details were not broken “down properly.”
Said Downum, “It was woefully .. it was inadequate. It was one page with a two- or three-word description with a dollar amount next to it. That’s not a plan.”
EPPC Commissioner Alexis Alexander said that following the December presentation, the commission split the proposed projects into phases.
“Maybe we misunderstood that you wanted everything altogether at once because it has been, as Ken said, difficult to get some of the numbers in,” Alexander said.
She explained that the first phase focuses on equipment purchases and improving the surface of the walking/running trail, which is wrought with potholes and other such damage.
Alexander said costs were available for the phase one projects.
Phase two concentrates on “the parks themselves” and Mattocks Park has evolved into the “B component” of phase two because more work has to go into determining the condition of the swimming pool, she said.
Goudy and Alexander told EWB members that Arkansas Department of Health officials and a Little Rock vendor/contractor are expected to inspect the pool this week to identify the work that needs to be done to bring the pool up to code.
Coffman asked if the recreational trail and equipment purchases are the EPPC’s top priority for the improvement plan.
“I wouldn’t say that. It’s the easiest and most immediate thing that we can do and it shows the public that we are trying,” Alexander said.
The improvement plan has been under development since the fall of 2018. The EPPC also solicited input from local residents to draft the plan.
Coffman told commissioners that she favors upgrading city parks, saying, “I live here too. What’s the big plan? What’s the scope of what you’re trying do?”
She pointed to information that had been submitted regarding proposed equipment purchases and said that some of the equipment that is under consideration is used.
Coffman inquired about additional details, such as warranties for the equipment.
For the public restrooms, she said the EWB would like to see diagrams/architectural drawings of the buildings and information about where the restrooms are going to be located within the respective parks.
Goudy said the facilities will be placed in areas near existing water and wastewater infrastructure.
“I mean, we don’t have a lot of choices of where we can put them,” he said.
Alexander explained that the restrooms will be modular-type, concrete structures with panels on the ceilings for lighting.
She also said timed locks will on the doors for security, and the restrooms will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act with double-user, stainless steel facilities.
The city’s parks and green space manager James Lewis and his team will regularly monitor and clean the restrooms, Alexander continued.
“We don’t exactly (where the…