Graham seeks end to ‘maxi-park’ fiasco
by Tom Joyce Staff Reporter
Some projects reach a point where there is just a need to “git r done,” and one Mount Airy official thinks that’s the case with a downtown mini-park.
“It seems to me it’s become a maxi-park,” Commissioner Scott Graham said at a recent council meeting, and he reiterated that sentiment Tuesday.
“It’s just gotten out of hand,” Graham said of a plan to develop a facility with benches and similar amenities at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets.
What began as a relatively modest project expected to cost around $10,000 since has ballooned into a more elaborate concept with a present price tag exceeding $135,000.
As Graham and fellow board members have wrestled in recent months with what elements the mini-park should contain and how to fund it, the list of proposed features has grown along the way and added to the project’s cost.
Graham attributes this to “too many hands in it,” which has led to a variety of components — not only basic items such as benches, but a gazebo that alone would cost an estimated $50,000, and even a steeple. It is patterned after the architecture of a former occupant of the corner, the historic Blue Ridge Hotel.
“There are too many people trying to get their hand in and put their own recipe in, I guess,” Graham said Tuesday.
This has led to the board of commissioners eyeballing nearly 10 different concepts for the mini-park to date, all containing varying elements and use of materials such as granite which has tended to inflate the cost.
“And I think the main thing is just to give people a place to sit down and take a break,” Graham said of his preference for the mini-park. “I think we need to keep it simple.”
Graham had said at the commissioners’ last meeting on Aug. 15 that he wanted to make a motion at their next session, on Sept. 5, aimed at either bringing the project to fruition “or just forget it.”
He said Tuesday that this will be a motion to put the latest, $135,300 proposal — developed by Mitch Williams, a city engineer, with the help of city planner Andy Goodall — out for bids from contractors. Williams has broken down the concept so that the different components can be itemized for expense purposes.
“We can get some unit prices for individual items,” Graham said.
In addition to the steeple and the gazebo — which would accommodate small musical performances — the design now on the table includes a fountain, the replacement of a brick retaining wall with granite, brick pavers, benches and landscaping.
Once the bids are received, the board could decide whether it is better to go with brick or concrete rather than granite for certain components to save money, Graham said. It would have the option of deleting or mixing and matching the various parts.
Graham personally wants the project to come in under $100,000, with the commissioners already having committed $70,000 and expressing the hope that donations could be raised from the community .
To reach that figure, he is looking toward one obvious omission. “We might have to do without the gazebo,” Graham said, thereby putting the total price of the mini-park in the $80,000 range.
Graham is not sure the gazebo would be a big part of the project anyway, pointing out that the space available for the mini-park is only 2,000 square-feet.
“I’m just ready to get it done and get it over with,” he said of the facility.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.
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