TARPON SPRINGS — The children of Mango Circle may soon have a playground with slides and swings.
With a unanimous vote this week, the Tarpon Springs City Commission agreed to offer the Housing Authority the playground equipment it owns on Lime Street. It will replace equipment removed last year because of safety concerns.
"The children of Mango Circle need a place to play," Commissioner Chris Alahouzos said. "This could be the solution. But we have got to make sure that the children have a place to play."
Pat Weber, the Housing Authority's executive director, could not be reached for comment. But Alahouzos said he spoke with Weber on Thursday afternoon and she agreed to accept the equipment.
"I asked her to send her response to me in writing, but she said her board agreed to accept it," Alahouzos said.
The city owns the equipment but the Housing Authority owns the land it is on.
In September, the authority plans to start work on a $11.5 million housing project that includes the Lime Street parcel. The city has to move the equipment by that time. It includes a slide combination set for ages up to 12 and a swing set.
The Housing Authority must assume all liability for the equipment and must have it inspected to ensure it is safe.
City Manager Mark LeCouris said the playground equipment, installed in 2007, is in very good condition.
In April 2009, a St. Petersburg Times story described the rundown conditions of the Mango Circle playground equipment.
A National Playground and Park Association inspector said the site was unsafe for children. There were rusted steel bolts and traces of lead paint on the outdated equipment, the inspector found. The playground was removed.
The Housing Authority initially refused to replace the playground equipment because the 60-unit low-income complex was slated to be demolished and rebuilt once a federal tax credit was received. But the authority learned in April it wasn't getting the tax credit this year.
With Mango Circle still lacking a playground for about 60 children living there, city officials have focused on playground equipment citywide. At Tuesday's meeting:
• Commissioner Susan Slattery said the Parks and Recreation Board is visiting every city park and taking an inventory of the equipment and its condition. She said a report will be presented to the commission.
• Commissioners also discussed partnering with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that helps install playground equipment, for a larger playground at Ed Dorsett Park.
KaBOOM! initially approached the Housing Authority a year ago about Mango Circle. The authority turned down the offer, citing the intent to raze the community. It approached the authority again in April.
LeCouris wondered how Mango Circle's playground problem became the city's responsibility.
"That was a great diversion tactic," LeCouris said. "Here it is, an issue about a playground for public housing and all of a sudden, here it is, we (the city) are being put in a position of we should build a KaBOOM! playground in Dorsett Park. We have brand new equipment out there that we just put out there."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174.