City OKs $385,000 to repair park's retaining wall

October 07, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Westminster will spend up to $385,000 to repair a retaining wall around City Park, a popular public space that is home to free concerts, outdoor movies, youth athletic leagues and camps.

"It's the soul of the city," said Councilman Robert P. Wack. "It's the center of the community. We do so many things there."

The city council unanimously approved the repair of the 300-foot-long wall surrounding the eastern part of City Park, in downtown Westminster between Longwell Avenue and Center Street.

The wall was built during the Depression with no footings to lock it in place and has become increasingly unstable because of water and weather damage, officials said.

"The wall repair is needed for both safety and aesthetics," said council President Damian L. Halstad, who lives near the park and visits it almost every weekend with his three young sons.

"City Park is one of the great amenities the city offers," Halstad said. "It's the focal point for most of our summer activities."

The park, also known as City Playground, recently was the site of the city's annual four-day Fallfest celebration. It is also home to free outdoor movie nights and Sunday concerts, and it has tennis courts, baseball fields, a playground and picnic tables.

Project called vital

Ronald Schroers, administrator for the city Recreation and Parks Department, said City Park is the busiest multipurpose park in Carroll County. He said that fortifying the wall is vital for the long-term future of the city's parks and recreation programs.

The council voted last week to approve a $372,481 bid from Westminster concrete supplier Thomas, Bennett & Hunter Inc. Another $13,000 was shifted from other accounts to cover any contingencies.

Thomas B. Beyard, the city director of planning and public works, said half the cost of the repair would be covered by a state grant.

City Finance Director Joseph D. Urban said that $220,000 was originally allocated in the budget for the project. But on Sept. 13, the council was presented with three options on repairing the wall, two of which exceeded that amount.

Three options

One option called for replacing half the wall at a cost of $210,000. It was not an option that Beyard recommended.

Instead, he recommended the second option for $250,000. That would have replaced 180 feet of the wall and created a storm drain to offset potential water damage.

Council members, however, embraced the third option, which was the costliest at $372,000. This one called for repairing the entire length of the wall and creating a storm drain.

"We're spending $100,000 more, but on a per-foot basis, we're getting a better unit cost by doing the whole thing," said Councilman Thomas Ferguson. "It seemed to me we ought to bite the bullet and do it all at once and do it right."

Repairing the wall on a piecemeal basis would give it an inconsistent appearance, council members said.

The wall will resemble part of the restoration at McDaniel College at Uniontown Road and West Main Street so that it will look like stone, Beyard said. But the wall will have the strength of concrete with footers firmly in place.

The city will also pay for new steps at the park entrances. The storm drain will keep water from the nearby alley from reaching the new wall.

Supplying trucks

Beyard said the city will keep costs down by supplying public works trucks to haul supplies.

To help pay for the more expensive option, Urban shifted $30,000 left over from updating the city government's telephone system and $135,000 from another project erroneously listed twice in the city's budget.

Once construction starts, repairs are expected to take about three months.

No date has been set for construction to begin.

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