The Thursday hearing of the mayor and Board of Aldermen included far too many items to be included in a single story, and each of them a victory for different populations in the city.
“Sometimes this job is difficult, tonight this job has been truly a lot of fun and I think that, as Alderman [Roger] Wilson said, we’ve made a difference,” was how Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak put it, chiming in at the end of the meeting to agree with her colleagues. “We have voted on things from young to old.”
While some of the votes concerned measures that fell solidly into a certain demographic’s interests — the approval of an agreement to keep the county Boys and Girls Club in the Burck Street Youth Center could be seen as more of a victory for city youth, while the progress made toward installing a senior park in Monocacy Village Park was arguably a triumph for older citizens — at least two measures could be seen as victories for the public at large.
A slam dunk for Stonegate Park
After years of watching the basketball court at Stonegate Park gradually break down to the point where only one hoop is playable, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department passed the ball to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday to fund a new court for players on the west end.
Parks & Rec Superintendent Scott Geasey took to the podium Thursday to explain how the slow growth of pine tree roots from a nearby row of trees has undermined much of the court’s surface, which was laid down around the same time Larry Bird won his third NBA Most Valuable Player Award (the first person to send me an email with the year gets a shout-out in next week’s column). Due the roots, the court can’t simply be replaced, but needs to be removed entirely and rebuilt at a more solid location in within the park, Geasey told the board.
While the proposal before the board was to approve a purchase order to pay the contractor, ATC Corp., $114,867.75 to handle the demolition and rebuild, the city would be able to use about $84,000 from a Maryland Department of Natural Resources community parks grant to finish the project.
The board voted unanimously to approve the project, but not before Alderman Wilson attempted a full-court press, asking Geasey which courts were next on the city’s list for replacement. Wilson in particular singled out the court at College Estates Park, where he and several others had recently attended a basketball tournament.
“They’re certainly on our radar, we have courts in need of repair in the Monarch Ridge neighborhood at Monarch Ridge Park, Overlook Park, as well,” Geasey replied, dodging a direct answer on where certain parks were ranked. “And there’s a lot of courts have probably been a little bit more neglected than they should have been over the years that we hope to address through the coming budget process.”
Fortunately for Geasey, Mayor Michael O’Connor was there for the rebound and assured Wilson that he had also reached out to the parks department independently to inquire about the College Estates Park the same afternoon of the tournament.
Bandshell seating also up for repair
Another popular item on Thursday’s agenda was a second proposal by Parks & Rec to completely replace all 725 seats at the Baker Park Bandshell for approximately $116,491.20.
Geasey was again in the hot seat for this item, telling the board that, due to the fact that the last contractor who restored the bandshell in 1990 has since gone out of business, it is “very difficult, if not impossible” to find replacement parts for the current seating area. As a result, other, around 50 intact seats have had to be removed and re-purposed to repair damaged seating over the years, steadily decreasing the bandshell’s seating capacity, Geasey said. With that in mind, the department solicited bids and compiled a cost estimate from the Irwin Seating Company to replace all of the seats at once.
While some aldermen asked Geasey about aesthetics of the new seats, which will be similar in style to the current seats, Alderman Ben MacShane suggested the department consider investing in a few extra seats to help prolong the longevity of the new project.
“That might be a good idea, you know, considering,” MacShane said. “... A little bit of added stock is not a bad idea.”
Before approving the project, Alderwoman Kelly Russell asked Geasey about when construction would likely begin.
“Well, of course it’s the busiest time of the year for us right now in Baker Park, so this likely wouldn’t happen until fall, after the summer concert series,” Geasey replied. “We’re not going to move forward on July 3.”