Altoona foots bill to equip parks

Reserve funds will go toward outfitting city’s playgrounds

By William Kibler

bkibler@altoonamirror.com

Liability concerns and City Council’s reserve fund couldn’t be further from the minds of kids while swinging on swings, climbing on monkey bars or sliding on slides in playgrounds.

But liability concerns are the reason that kids in Altoona haven’t had swings or bars or slides to play upon in recent times — and the reserve fund is why they’ll soon be swinging and climbing and sliding again.

The Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission at its most recent meeting learned that a city contribution of $260,000 and a $146,000 grant from play equipment maker GameTime will enable workers over the next couple of months to install equipment to replace outdated or worn apparatus that was stripped away because of injury risks at a half dozen city parks operated by CBRC.

The equipment will be set up at the East Juniata tot lot, Orchard Park near McAuliffe Heights at Irving Elementary School, Focus Park near St. Therese’s church, Iuzzolino Park on the 2500 block of Maple Avenue, Fairview Park and Highland Park, commission Execu­tive Director Mike Hofer said.

All the parks will get multi-faceted equipment that is different from the rest, except that Highland Park will get an 85-foot-long swing set, Hofer said.

The equipment is being purchased without competitive bidding through COSTARS, a state-run co­operative purchasing program, said Marla Mar­cinko, commission member and city manager.

With COSTARS, the state negotiates maximum prices for goods, based on the leverage of bulk buys for thousands of public purchasers.

Municipal buyers can further negotiate for even better deals.

City Council authorized the allocation for the playground equipment from its reserves through an informal consensus at a recent work session, Marcinko said.

City officials have been trying to spend down the reserve, which is higher as a percentage of its total budget than recommended by municipal finance organizations.

The commission had to compete to obtain the GameTime grant, Hofer said.

Workers from GameTime and a landscaping company will install the equipment, Hofer said.

“It will be a huge benefit to the community,” Mar­cinko said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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