Play’s the thing in Ancram

ANCRAM–The people in charge of fun in town think that a new playground will go a long way toward raising the gauge on the town’s fun-o-meter.

Bob Wilcox, a member of the Ancram Youth Commission and a town justice, with several other commission members at his side, presented a recommendation and detailed plan for a new 6,000-square-foot playground at the April 17 Town Board meeting.

“Our recreational goals are to provide a facility that will exceed the fun expectations of a broad range of children…2-to-14 years old,” said Mr. Wilcox, who went on to present 2000 census data indicating there are 269 children within that age range in town and between 350 and 400 children total.

The commission proposes to buy the new playground equipment from Parketects Inc. of Lansing in Tompkins County, which has provided playground equipment to the towns of Hillsdale and Amenia.

Both the equipment and the installation methods will meet manufacturer specifications and Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards.

The equipment chosen will not only provide kids with fun, but will also “build confidence, strength and coordination,” according to Mr. Wilcox.

The commission has also run the idea past the town’s insurance agent, The Kleeber Agency, and been told there should be negligible impact on the town’s liability coverage due to the proposed installation of a “proper surface” on which the equipment will be placed. The town’s assets insurance coverage cost may go up by $70 annually due to the equipment acquisition, Mr. Wilcox said.

The cost of the playground equipment is $40,000; site preparation and contractor assistance costs, which could be reduced through use of the town Highway Department or in-kind donations from local contractors, is $25,000; material costs for installation of the shock absorbent ground cover is $10,000; and a 10% contingency fund of $7,500 is also built in for a total project cost of $82,500.

The commission is looking to raise a total $105,000, with the $22,500 difference going to create a maintenance fund and a future sitting area for use when a break from the fun is needed.

The commission proposes to put the playground on a 75-by-85-foot space behind the Town Hall, which Mr. Wilcox said is well-drained and “pretty level which will make installation easy and allow for handicapped access.” There is ample parking, the area is visible and a Sheriff’s Office substation is in the Town Hall, all factors that mitigate the chances of vandalism or misuse and improve access in case of emergency.

“To defray installation costs and encourage community involvement” the commission plans a “community build” the weekend of September 24 to 26, when, under the guidance of Parkitects experts, “30 to 40 Ancram residents armed with shovels, wrenches and screwdrivers will assemble and install the equipment on the prepared site.”

The commission hopes to let the fun begin with a grand opening of the new playground by Columbus Day weekend, October 9.

The commission asked the Town Board for $10,000 toward the project cost and a resolution in support of the project. The commission will make a matching $10,000 contribution; $5,000 has already been committed to the project by Justice Wilcox and Councilman Chris Thomas, who have each pledged their $2,500 annual town salaries. The commission is seeking $40,000 in grants and $40,000 in private donations. Councilman Jim Miller kicked off the fundraising effort with a $20 cash contribution at the meeting.

Residents questioned the location of the playground, wondering why the commission doesn’t put it on Blass Memorial Field, near the town pool.

Mr. Wilcox reiterated his statements about visibility and accessibility, though he allowed for future discussion about the location, noting that the commission’s main goal now is to get the Town Board and community to buy-in to the project and get the fundraising underway.

The idea of eventually building a new pool at the town hall site and turning Blass field back into a usable ballfield also came up.

All board members voted in favor of fun by supporting the playground project and committing $10,000 in as-yet-undiscovered funds to pay for it.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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