By CASEY CROUCHER
After banning basketball hoops in city streets, Amsterdam officials are now planning facelifts for city parks, beginning next week.
"I'm meeting with the Common Council next Tuesday, Aug.5, at a committee meeting to talk about what should be done with our parks," recreation director Rob Spagnola said. "There's some things that need to be done but in general most of the parks are in decent shape."
However, Spagnola said Sirchia Park, between Guy Park Avenue and Division Street, "definitely needs some work done down on the bottom end. And that's a major job, not something small that we can just go in and fix."
Mayor Ann Thane agreed, so she and Spagnola went to Eric Pareene of Trucking & Excavating Inc. for a quote of $32,000 to fix up the park -- primarily the basketball court.
"It's a lot of money," Thane said. "People think, oh no, this is just basic maintenance, just put a roof up and let the kids play. But what's happened is the ground beneath the court is washing out so there was an enormous sink hole that started on the west end of the court and you can't play with a sink hole."
The mayor hopes the common council "is as committed to restoring these parks as they indicate, now that they've taken basketball hoops off the streets."
She said the council would have to seek a bond to get the project going and in her opinion they're running out of time because the park's conditions continue to worsen. She wishes the prior council had bonded for park repairs because the deferred maintenance drives up the repair costs.
"It's just a shame [the park] wasn't bonded for by past councils when they had the opportunity," she said. "This is what happens with deferred maintenance and there's been a lot of chatter that I've decreased bonding since I've taken office but the fact is the prior administration didn't bond for anything and so we ended up with this deferred maintenance situation for equipment and capital projects and you must invest in your infrastructure or it just crumbles."
She compared the situation to a house having a leak in the roof. "You must invest in fixing the leak or the cost of fixing it goes up," she said. "Instead of taking care of problems when [the council] should have they increased the cost of taking care of it from $10,000 to $50,000, and that's what happens when you defer maintenance. It just ends up driving up your costs."
Thane said Pareene's quote includes removal of the old blacktop, removal of the wall, installation of new blacktop, preparation for a new 53-foot wall, installation of the wall, removal of concrete at the demolished house site, paving the site for an additional parking area, and installation of fencing.
"The extra parking is a $12,000 addition to the park but I think it's necessary," she said.
Third Ward Alderman Ronald Barone Sr., whose ward houses Sirchia Park, said one proposal isn't enough for this project.
"We can't look at one proposal. We have to get more than one proposal," Barone said. "To fix that whole park, all the way back to where the house was knocked down last year -- it's a good-sized park, and they want to take the fence down and extend it all the way out. You just have to get [requests for proposals] for that. You can't go with your first proposal and go through with the project."
Barone agrees that the park needs to be repaired and he has told the rest of the council to look at their ward's parks to see what needs to be done to improve them.
"It's got to be something that will be handled because when we put the [basketball] ordinance into effect, we said we'd fix up these parks," he said.
Barone also said city officials need to get going with the projects because they're running out of time.
"We can do one park now and then just keep going, but if we hold off now, how long will we hold off for?" he said. "I think speed is of the essence, but I still want to make sure we do this right because in the past [the city] has done knee-jerk reactions and all of a sudden it comes back and haunts us. What we want to do now is get all our ducks in a row and do it right, and then it's up to the kids to maintain the parks."
Barone wants the city to seek bids for each park that needs repairs unless a bidder offers a "package deal" for multiple parks.
"We have to get going on this because the summer is almost over and we need to get these parks and our plans in place," he said.