Official action to be taken in future
When the City of Fort Calhoun hosted an open house in late March for residents to see the conceptual designs for a new park to be built in the Adams Street Corridor area, no construction timeline was proposed.
Maintenance buildings which formerly graced the future park site were demolished earlier this year and ground work is set to follow, but the construction of the next two phases — installing a splash pad and toddler play area — was not set. Also included in the project are restrooms, stage space, picnic area, gas fire pit and parking areas.
"It's not like we're going to do all this in two years," Mayor Mitch Robinson said at the March open house. "(Having the design) is so we know what's going to go where and it's a plan."
But during the July 15 city council meeting, Robinson said he wanted to at least see construction on the splash pad and toddler play area sooner rather than later.
A private committee of several Fort Calhoun residents hopes to help the city reach that goal by fundraising half of the $500,000 needed to complete the splash pad and toddler area. The city is already planning to use a portion of money from sales taxes earmarked for parks, estimated at about $100,000 a year currently, and a $50,000 splash pad grant the city received from the Papio-Missouri Natural Resource District for the park.
"$250,000 is the goal," said Liz Sevcik who is on the private committee. "It's a lofty goal, especially in the timeframe if we could get this going in the spring, that would be amazing. We understand that this project could go faster if we could raise half of the funds privately. We hope to do that because we feel this is really a great thing for the kids and for this community."
Sevcik said funds could be raised through grants the private committee identifies, such as the Blair Area Community Foundation grant, or through private and corporate donors. She said, if feasible, bricks or bench nameplates could be sold with donors names on them and placed in the new park. Other fundraising events are also being discussed, Sevcik said.
Sevcik said she came to the city council to see if she could get an answer on if the city would commit to building next spring if the private committee could get half the funds. She said people might be wondering why they would donate now if there wasn't a guarantee the splash pad and toddler area would be installed quickly.
"I think the problem for us," Robinson said. "To say, 'Yes, we're going to go ahead with Phase II, half a million dollars next year,' without knowing exactly how much money we got, the city is not prepared for that. I think we need to work with you and communicate with you more. Once you get to a certain mark, I think we can say, 'OK, we go ahead now and start looking at this.'"
Robinson encouraged the group to keep the city updated on its fundraising status. He said he would like to see construction start in 2020 or 2021.
"You're group is one that could push us up to that mark," he said to Sevcik.
Multipurpose court proposed for West Market Square park
The basketball court at West Market Square Park just isn't big enough, Fort Calhoun Park Board President Kris Richardson said.
"The current basketball court is lacking as far as it's size," she said. "It's got a great location, it's shady," but rebounds also fall into a nearby ditch.”
That is why Richardson brought the idea of constructing a larger multipurpose court to the city council.
The new court might be placed on the current one on the northwest end of the park, or it could sit slightly east closer to playground equipment. A fence would be built around the court and lines for basketball, pickle ball, badminton or other games would be painted on the pavement.
"We've been working on projects for kids that are older," Richardson said. "We have a lot of playground equipment here in town. We're just looking to expand things, make some improvements."
Richardson said the new court could conceivably accommodate a 10-person half-court basketball game with options for many other activities.
"Kids can learn bicycling, skateboarding, roller blading," she said. "Pretty much anything you need a hard surface, and we don't have that anywhere else in the parks."
The estimated cost of the project is $47,118, though Richardson said that is a high estimate. Richardson said one city resident offered to do any grading work for free and other earthwork could be completed by city maintenance staff. Other work like fencing, concrete and painting lines would likely be done by other businesses.
The city will look at where prices can be reduced before taking any action on the proposed court plans.
"I think it's a great plan," Robinson said. "I think it's something that's needed for some of these older kids because there's really not a lot to do in some of these parks."
Council member Nick Schuler, who is also on the parks board, said the multipurpose court project shows the city has an "exceptional" park board.
"What Kris has done here with designs, working with Brook Bench, the director of the parks in Omaha is on our parks board, really helps us with to get the numbers,” Schuler said.“I think it's a great opportunity to use the sales tax money since the citizens voted it in to really do something exception with our parks."