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Funds approved to begin improvements at Pond Cove School playground

Pond Cove School is on its way to getting a new playground.

The School Board on Feb. 14, 2017 authorized expenditure of no more than $50,000 from capital funds for the first phase of a plan to modernize and bring the playground into safety compliance.

"The playground has had violations for quite some time, some of them are equipment based, some of them are layout based," added Greg Marles, director of facilities. "That does put us out of compliance with federal guidelines, those are areas that we do need to look at and we have needed to look at for a long time," Marles said.

Parents and school officials have been looking to improve the playground for several years, Interim Superintendent Howard Colter said at the board's meeting.

Landscape architect Sashie Misner has drawn up a plan to overhaul the playground - a plan that will cost several hundred thousand dollars to implement, Colter said. The $50,000 seed money will cover a first phase, including removal of swings that could be considered dangerous; and replacing some aging structures with open grassed areas.

The majority of board members saw the expenditure as a welcome first step. "There is clarity about what to do next," said School Board member Heather Altenburg. "There is a final idea, a final plan in mind so it's not haphazard at all, it's very well thought out," she said.

Not all members were as supportive. John Voltz, who voted against the expenditure, said he wanted to know if the School Department had other, more pressing capital needs. "I feel like we're voting blind for something we just attached a round number to, we don't know exactly where it's going to take us and we don't know what the alternatives are," Voltz said.

The funding will come from approximately $100,000 saved from capital projects that came in under budget this year, projects that include roofing and a generator at the High School, Marles said.

In a related matter, the board on Feb. 14 unanimously approved expenditure of up to $55,000, also from capital projects savings, to upgrade lighting at the High School. The move takes advantage of a matching grant from Efficiency Maine, which will result in a project worth more than $104,000, Marles said.