After years of promises Town of Farmville still has no splash pad

This is NOT a faith column.

Back in 1999 when our family was relatively new to Farmville, I was asked to be on the Recreation Commission. One of the biggest issues during my term was the fact that the public pool had not been maintained properly for a long period of time. The cost to bring it up to code was prohibitive. The vote to fill it in was one that none of us wanted to make, but we had no choice. The town’s financial situation offered no other option. Our biggest concern was that modest or low-income families with children could not afford a membership to the country club and would have no outlet for cool, outdoor activity in the summer. The members on the Commission were hopeful that the Town of Farmville would set aside money in the near future for some kind of hot weather water option for kids.

For a minimum of eight years, we have had at least one elected official promising the town would build a public splash park or pad. Input and suggestions were sought from our residents ages ago, but to date the project has amounted to no more than just talk. Of course, budget constraints hit harder during certain periods, but not consistently throughout the eight years. At what point would a promised splash pad move up to a top priority?

In early 2017 Farmville Enterprise readers saw that the public library, built in 1954 with an addition in 1997, had a Space Needs Assessment and that commissioners approved the seeking of an architectural firm for renovation and expansion. The engineer from the firm eventually hired determined that the soil beneath the building was causing structural damage. He said it would not cost much more to demolish the existing library and build a larger one than to correct the soil problems, renovate and add to the current building. In 2018 the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to demolish the library and to proceed with new construction of a larger, more modern-looking building and in 2019 they voted unanimously to take out a $5 million loan for the project. In addition, the town spent $300,000-$340,000 for the development of a parking area and lot in exchange for rent at the temporary library space.

Over the course of two years the idea of library renovation was brought forth, changed to new construction and rose to the top of the town’s priorities. This project even went ahead of the needed new fire station, openly discussed amongst town officials for years as the new fire trucks require taller bays than our current station has. There is no telling how many millions of dollars the necessary plan of building a firehouse will cost. We have known for quite a long time that it would be expensive.

In 2019 a project to provide 13 public parking spaces and an improved alley behind the former Farmville Hardware building escalated suddenly from an original price tag of $200,000 to over $500,000 of taxpayer money. Within months the commissioners agreed to a work order change and to absorb over two and a half times the initial cost for the new plan.

So, where on the list of priorities is the promised splash pad now?  How much longer will our residents who have been without a public pool or water area for almost 20 years have to wait? Why could the town move so quickly on other, even pricey, projects? One splash pad company says that a commercial pad could cost between $65,000 and $500,000. On May 28, 2020 The Standard quotes Commissioner Brenda Elks as saying, “I know we can’t put a splash pad in our budget now. Since I sat on this board [4.5 years], this is all we have talked about. We would love to do that eventually, but COVID-19 has pushed it to the wayside… That’s something I really want us to explore what can be done about that.” Put on the back burner once again. On a brighter note, see the wonderful splash pad the Town of Ayden finished in 2014. It’s the wave of the future.  https://withersravenel.com/project/ayden/

P.S. The Ayden splash park cost approximately $190,000, not including the bathroom building. It is extremely popular and their residents pay $2 per visit to play in the water as long as they wish. This charge usually allows them to pay the young adult to oversee (think lifeguard) the pad plus give a little money back to the town. The man with whom I spoke gave some important suggestions. 1. Get the rain converter. 2. Get the system which reclaims the water. (Ayden has a 1,000 gallon tank which is buried.) 3. Put the sensor off to the side approximately 4′ to 5′ (away from the water) so it is not continually getting wet and staying on. 4. Raise up the ground on which the pad sits 3″-4″ higher than the other ground and add a slope all around the pad so the rain does not sit on the pad or run across it. This way the water will run down the slopes. 5. Do not place the splash pad really close to a playground or if you have no choice make sure you do not use mulch. Poured-in-place surfacing would be better. (Mulch gets in the filters and is trouble.) 6. If you have a choice, offer a lot of shade. 7. You get what you pay for. The Town of Ayden used Vortex which was not cheap. There are cheaper companies but quality can be worth the extra. 8. Code says you have to have bathrooms. It is like the regulation for a swimming pool.

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