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Nash board eyes park issues

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Monday, September 16, 2019

Thomas Gillespie, director of parks and recreation for Nash County, told Nash County commissioners at its recent board meeting that an arson investigation is underway concerning an incident that happened at the Spring Hope Community Park.

“Someone started a fire in the trash can of the women’s bathroom and attempted to start one in the men’s bathroom as well by using lighting toilet paper,” Gillespie said. “The Spring Hope Police Department is investigating this as an arson.”

In a later interview, Spring Hope Detective T. Bell said the fire was discovered about 12:25 p.m. Sept. 1. Someone passing by the park had noticed the smoke and reported it. Both the Spring Hope Police Department and the Spring Hope Fire Department responded to the scene.

The flames were extinguished, but not before damage was done to the facilities, Bell said.

“The flames went up the wall and melted fixtures,” Bell said. “A witness said two young black males leaving the scene. One of them had a red shirt.”

Bell said the facilities were not only unlocked when police arrived, but the combination locks were missing.

In an interview on Friday, Gillespie said staff members were still puzzling over what happened to the locks.

“The maintenance crew said the locks were in place and locked on Friday when they left. And the coach that used the fields that day said that neither he nor his players went anywhere near the bathrooms. But somehow those locks went missing between Friday and Sunday when the vandals went in,” Gillespie said.

The restroom facilities are closed now until repairs are made. Nash County Manager Zee Lamb told the Telegram that county officials will be meeting with Spring Hope officials Monday to discuss insurance information and repair options.

County commissioners also discussed last week an addendum to the contract with Spring Hope regarding replacing the playground equipment at the Spring Hope Community Park.

Gillespie said the current playground equipment was installed in 2013 using a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant. However, the equipment was donated by a day care in Raleigh and was now in “hazardous condition.”

Commissioner Dan Cone said the equipment needs to be replaced.

“I wouldn’t let my own 2-year-old granddaughter play on that equipment. It was terrible,” Cone said.

Zee Lamb said that he and Gillispie attended the last Spring Hope meeting to discuss the interlocal agreement that was made in 2015.

According to the original contract, “all costs and expenses associated with the construction, repair, purchase and installation of existing and future capital improvements … shall be made and paid for by the county with the county being reimbursed from the town’s annual payment into the reserve account.”

The county is also responsible for maintaining and operating the park, the agreement notes.

Under the original agreement, that Town of Spring Hope agreed to pay $7,000 a year for the first 10 years, $8,000 a year beginning in the 11th year and $10,000 a year beginning in the 21st year of the agreement.

However, the agreement also notes that “in the event that the town’s annual payment is exhausted or insufficient to pay for the cost of capital improvements in a year, the town agrees to reimburse the county for excess expenditures through the town’s annual payment in future years.”

Since the new playground equipment is expected to cost roughly $50,000 or more based on recent bids, an addendum has been added to increase the amount of the town’s annual payment to $10,000 a year to compensate for the cost of the equipment. The addendum to the contract was approved by the Spring Hope Board of Commissioners on Sept. 3 and approved on Sept. 9 by the Nash County Board of Commissioners.

“We proposed that we raise that $7,000 to $10,000 until 2045. We will acquire and pay for the new equipment and use that $10,000 a year to pay off the equipment,” Lamb said. “We have been talking to Spring Hope several months about this. It is required under their PARTIF grant that they replace this dilapidated playground equipment.”

Gillespie said they are still working on the bid process and a decision on the bid award for the playground equipment would be made at later date.

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