Thanks to a decision by Town Meeting last night, Southborough kids will one day soon have a new place to play. In a close vote, residents approved spending $96K in Community Preservation Act funds to build a new playground at the South Union School, which houses the Recreation Department and Arts Center.
The vote in favor of the project came despite concerns from some residents about both the timing of the project and its location.
While commending the Recreation Department for their work, Selectman John Rooney said the board did not support the project because they felt it was “inconsistent” to recommend cuts in town budgets, and then turn around and support allocating funds to the playground.
Several residents said they agreed. “Do we want to invest in this right now?” asked Parmenter Road resident Karen Muggeridge.
Mark Murphy, chairman of the Recreation Commission, said the project was worth spending money on. “This is a good time to spend money if the project has merits,” he said. “If you wait it will cost more.”
Community Preservation Committee Chairman Andrew Mills said the decision by the Recreation Department to scale back the project, which originally included a splash pad along with the playground at a cost of $133K, showed “fiscal responsibility.”
Recreation Director Doreen Ferguson told selectmen last week that the playground could help her department bring in an additional $5-10K in revenue annually.
Former Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf said the town should have a long-term plan for its facilities before embarking on a project such as the playground.
“I think the town needs to take a serious look at its building assets,” she said. “We need to look at how best we can use buildings before adding anything else to them.”
The final vote was too close to call and required a standing count. In the end, 105 residents voted in favor of the project compared to 82 who opposed it.
Money for the project will come from the Community Presevation Act surcharge paid by taxpayers. The collected funds were matched by the state this year at a rate of about 28 percent.
The $96K approved by voters does not include clearing the land next to the South Union School – currently covered in brush and weeds – or installing the playground equipment. Ferguson said she plans to solicit help from volunteers to complete those tasks.
Funds will be available starting July 1, and Ferguson said she hopes to get underway on the project as soon as possible after that.
For a rendering of what the playground will look like, see this post.