NEW PORT RICHEY — Here's a city expenditure that may result in cleaner hands and knees for the smallest citizens: putting down mulch at the Sims Park playground.
City Council members, sitting as directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency, voted 5-0 Tuesday to spend $23,000 to spread mulch at the playground, arguably one of the most popular spots in downtown New Port Richey.
Most of the ground at the Sims Park playground is dirt and sand, which get on the swing sets and climbing structures. To adhere to national playground safety standards, the dirt will have to be removed to a depth of nearly a foot and then filled with engineered wood fiber mulch.
Much of the expense is due to the design of the playground, parks and recreation director Elaine Smith said Tuesday night. The contractor will have to go in with hand tools to work around the playground equipment.
Besides helping with the mess, said Smith, the mulch could also give kids a somewhat softer landing.
"Sand … is not the safest material to use in fall zones surrounding playground features where children are climbing," she wrote in a July 29 memo.
Image Construction Corp. of New Port Richey, the only contractor to bid on the project, will start the work in the next week or so, Smith said.
The mulching project is one of several end-of-the-fiscal-year expenditures paid for with some of the money that came into the redevelopment coffers in recent months.
That extra money includes a $131,380 settlement from the architect on the recreation complex. The city was also able to free up another $100,000 after voting earlier this year not to take a matching state transit grant to pay for the design of a downtown parking garage and bus transfer depot.
Other redevelopment expenditures approved Tuesday night include:
• Up to $38,000 to spruce up the section of Van Buren Street running next to the $14-million recreation and aquatics complex. The plan involves using city employees to plant trees and put up some decorative fencing in that area, which is now bare.
• $36,000 to resurface the city's tennis courts. Most of that cost — $21,000 — comes from donations from two organizations, the Pasco Tennis Foundation and United States Tennis Association.
• $3,870 to paint Peace Hall.
• $25,000 grant to Richey Suncoast Theater and a $50,000 incentive grant to Cracker Barrel.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.