The city of Dayton is scaling back its plans to invest nearly $1.5 million into its parks and playgrounds in 2020 and 2021 because COVID-19 has derailed its finances.
The city will install new playground equipment in four parks this year, but its spending isn’t expected to much exceed about half of its original planned investment of $744,000.
The city also planned to spend the same amount next year on park and playground upgrades, but those plans are now in doubt because of significant revenue losses due to the coronavirus economic downturn, which led to the shelving of some capital projects, officials said.
“Of course it’s disappointing ― we want upgrades,” said Fred Stovall, Dayton’s director of public works. “It’s a bummer in one respect that we can’t get it done, and the other bummer is because of COVID, some people aren’t able to get out and enjoy the parks.”
City leaders, however, have authorized putting money toward cleaning the city’s playground equipment and park facilities to reduce the chances of the spread of infection.
Last month, the city of Dayton approved spending more than $397,000 to install new playground equipment at Highview Hills Park, Belmont Park, Stuart Patterson Park and Princeton Park.
Most of Dayton’s playground equipment is more than 20 years old and outdated, Stovall said.
The new three-level playground sets the city has purchased are designed to be more interactive and physically challenging, Stovall said.
A new set was installed in late spring at Fairview Park.
The new play areas have climbing walls, slides, musical components and other features that allow children to practice balancing, crawling, motor skills and other physical activities, Stovall said.
The new sets will be installed by the end of September and will be the new standard for the city moving forward and is expected to have a lifespan of around 20 years, Stovall said.
Dayton’s original 2020 budget called for spending $744,000 this year and the city wanted to spend the same amount again in 2021 on its parks.
But Stovall said the city this year expects to only spend the $397,000 to upgrade the four parks.
The city was considering replacing playground equipment at Deweese/Ridgecrest, Madden Hills, Pierce Steele, Cooper, Triangle and Kettering Fields parks, he said.
“COVID has put some of that on hold,” Stovall said. “We’ll try to do some of that next year.”
The city will make some park upgrades in 2021, but what those will be is unclear at this time, and budget restraints will be a major consideration, he said.
The CDC says playgrounds can be risky in communities where COVID-19 is spreading because they can get crowded, which makes social distancing difficult. The agency also says it can be hard to keep play area surfaces clean and disinfected.
But Dayton has acquired outside help to help make its equipment safer.
Dayton city commissioners recently authorized spending up to $682,500 on a contract with Playcare LLC, a company in Troy.
The company proposes to regularly clean the city’s playground equipment and other facilities at 28 parks in 2020 and possibly in 2021.
The commission gave the city authority to spend $97,500 this year and $585,000 next year, if needed and if the budget allows, officials said.
The city plans to use federal CARES Act funding to reimburse this year’s cleaning costs, said Dayton Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette.
“This contract in particular ... is the first contract to come before you that is a proactive spend of those dollars,” he told city commissioners.
At some parks, Playcare proposes sanitizing and cleaning equipment, furnishings and other facilities Monday through Friday. Other parks would be cleaned a few times each week.
Playcare says it provides a four-step sanitizing process that kills 99.9% of harmful germs and applies a “smart coating” to equipment that offers antimicrobial protection.
The company says it hand scrubs every surface, applies hospital-grade disinfectant and puts on deep gloss coating and another type of coating that bonds to the surface of the equipment that prevents microbial growth.
“This is an effort we are making to improve the sanitation of the playground equipment,” Stovall said.