Location of playground equipment sparks debate

11/14/2013

Location of playground

Location of playground

equipment sparks debate

Holcomb Council agreed spot too close to Clutter Memorial.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

HOLCOMB — Following a discussion that was somewhat testy at times, the Holcomb City Council voted 2-1 on Wednesday to dig up and relocate newly installed playground equipment at the city park due to concerns that the equipment is too close to the Clutter Memorial.

The city bought three new pieces of playground equipment earlier this year, and the maintenance department has been assembling and installing them over the past several months.

Councilman Brian Rupp expressed concern that the proximity of the playground might lead to children climbing on or playing around the memorial. The memorial was dedicated in September 2009 in honor and memory of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their children Nancy and Kenyon, who were murdered in their home on Nov. 15, 1959.

"Over the years, we've talked about some different things over there and talked about not putting stuff right up next to the memorial," said Rupp, whose father, Bob Rupp, was heavily involved in getting the memorial approved. "That memorial has roughly $25,000 of private money that got put into that, and there's been several things that have been vandalized and had to be taken off of it. If you put playground equipment right next to it, you're going to be encouraging people and kids to be playing on everything."

Rupp said he isn't sure how the miscommunication happened about where to put the equipment because he had a discussion with staff about locating it farther to the southwest, and recalls talking about the equipment's location at a past meeting.

"Parents don't watch their kids. Things get vandalized because people aren't taught right from wrong, and when you put stuff to encourage play around the area you're encouraging problems with stuff," Rupp said. "When you've got a huge park there and you put it 11 foot away from it ... it just surprises me that it got put there."

Councilman Greg Cox also recalled having a discussion about the playground equipment and not having it close to the memorial for the reasons Rupp cited.

"I think common sense should have prevailed. We've got that whole park and all this space and potential for the park, why wouldn't we have a separate area for the playground by itself, away from the other nice areas of the park?" Cox said.

The discussion led to an exchange between Rupp and City Superintendent Larry Baier, who disagreed about a conversation the two had about where the equipment would be located. Baier said he told Rupp it would be on the east side of the memorial while Rupp said Baier told him it would go on the west side.

"I talked to you right here in this room and I said exactly — exactly — that we want to put it in the same angle where the swing set goes, going toward that light pole next to the gazebo going to the southwest," Rupp said.

Baier asked why Rupp didn't take him out there and show him what he wanted, prompting Mayor Gary Newman to step in and put a stop to the exchange.

"Direction to a city employee shouldn't be coming from a council member," Newman said. "I can certainly appreciate and understand Brian's passion for this, with the personal ties to it."

Councilman Rob McCallister said if the council wants to move the equipment, it should keep the discussion from becoming personal.

"There's going to be some costs involved. Do we want to do it or not?" McCallister said. "I don't want to make this a personal attack on the guys. Yes, there may have been a conversation that was misunderstood ... right or wrong, that's what they did."

The estimated cost of moving the equipment was around $1,350.

Rupp and Cox voted to move the equipment for an amount not to exceed $2,000. McCallister voted no. Council members Scott Homer and Mark Richmeier were absent due to deaths in their respective families.

Newman disagreed with moving the equipment.

"I think it's more personal than in the best interests of the city," Newman said. "I think it goes against everything that's preached about, or been spoken about, about wasteful spending."

Rupp said he disagreed.

In other business Wednesday:

* The council tabled discussion about what to do about the city's animal shelter for now, but by consensus asked city engineer Pete Earles to prepare information for the council to review in December on what it would take to repair the existing animal shelter.

Earlier in the meeting, Earles brought the council information about a flood plain issue that popped up at the last meeting that could impact the cost of improvements at the existing shelter. Earles said surveys show the shelter is 7.2 feet below base flood elevation.

"The problem isn't so much that it's in the flood plain, the problem is the electrical switches would have to be above that by a foot, which would be outside the building," Earles said.

Earles said the city could do general maintenance on the building, such as repairing the wood roof using wood instead of concrete as originally planned, to avoid extra costs associated with addressing flood plain issues. He estimated it might cost $4,000 for the city to put on a new roof, fix electric problems and install new exhaust fans.

For a new 30-by-60 foot building, large enough for the shelter and as a storage building for the maintenance department as the council has talked about in the past, Earles estimated it could cost close to $80,000.

Before tabling the issue, two council members, Cox and Rupp, felt the shelter and storage building should be considered as separate issues.

* The council approved the promotion of Ciro Chavez from recruit/probationary firefighter to firefighter one, and approved the appointment of Eric Ramirez as a recruit/probationary firefighter with the Holcomb Fire Department.

* The council scheduled the city Christmas dinner for Dec. 13 at the Holcomb Recreation Commission.

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