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City Commission ponders refurbishing or replacing playground gear at Largo Central Park

A bridge between two structures at the playground in Largo Central Park is blocked by plywood boards Tuesday after the bridge was deemed unsafe.

DOMINICK TAO | Times

A bridge between two structures at the playground in Largo Central Park is blocked by plywood boards Tuesday after the bridge was deemed unsafe.

Joan Byrne, Largo's director of parks and recreation, popped the question to city commissioners Tuesday night about the aging playground equipment in Largo Central Park.

"Do we refurbish, or do we replace?"

The difference could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars saved or drained from city coffers, but also a big difference in the playground's lifespan (and possibly, its fun factor).

Refurbishing the 15-year-old playground would cost $395,000, and include replacing the rubber surfaces under the equipment, adding mulch, replacing the fencing and repainting the jungle gyms and swing sets. The equipment could endure for up to three more years.

Replacement could cost two-thirds more, between $500,000 and $700,000, but would result in a playground that would last far longer — and perhaps inject even more fun into the award-winning destination for parents and kids.

"The new stuff is going to last 15 years or more, hopefully," said parks superintendent Greg Brown.

Most of the commissioners at the work session were in favor of replacing the equipment, and living up to the park's reputation as one of the best in the county.

The Largo Central Park playground was voted best playground in Tampa Bay by Nickelodeon Parents Connect Web magazine in both 2008 and 2009.

"I would go with option two and say, 'Do it,' " Commissioner Mary Gray Black said. "I think we should do the total replacement."

Mayor Patricia Gerard and Commissioner Gigi Arntzen also said they were in favor of replacement.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes, however, was taken aback about the costs involved.

"I've already got sticker shock," Holmes said.

Holmes suggested the city try to get corporate sponsors involved to help defray costs.

Byrne said $40,000 or more also could be saved by asking volunteers to help erect some of the equipment.

Commissioners will vote on the matter at a future meeting.

The money for replacing the equipment already has been budgeted for 2010, but City Manager Mac Craig raised the issue as a possible money saver in austere times.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

City Commission ponders refurbishing or replacing playground gear at Largo Central Park 05/25/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:22pm]
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