By GARY POPP
CHARLESTOWN — Charlestown City Council members met Monday night and approved the bidding process for the first phase of the city’s Family Activities Center.
Plans for stage one of the facility include a sprinkler park, playground, roller skating rink and multipurpose building where light concessions will be sold. Completion of the first phase comes with an anticipated price tag of $1.3 million, Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall said.
“We are hoping to have it open May 24 — the last day of school,” Hall said.
The Family Activities Center will be located across from the Charlestown High School football field on Park Street.
The recreation center will expand on a skate park built at the site in 2010.
Hall presented several architectural drawings of the proposed facility on a large television during the meeting and responded to questions from the council before the unanimous vote was cast that approved the city to begin accepting bids to construct the first phase.
The 65-by-65-foot sprinkler pad will include 18 to 20 water features, Hall said, centered around a 12-foot-tall fiberglass pirate. A 15-foot border will surround the pad where chairs can be set up so parents and guardians can lounge in the sun while keeping a close eye on their children.
Hall said the sprinklers will be designed to shut off after a certain time if no children are playing in the area, which will save money and conserve water. Buttons in each corner of the sprinkler pad can be pushed by the children to activate the sprinklers after they have been automatically shut off.
The playground will cover a 66--by-54-foot area, and also will have a pirate theme. Hall said 4-inch-deep soft tile will cover the playground area to minimize possible injuries to children falling from the playground options.
Hall said the most technical aspect of phase one will be the construction of the building adjacent to the playground and sprinkler park. The building will house a concession area and restrooms. He said organizers are considering the option of including locker space in the building for patrons to keep personal belongings and multipurpose rooms that can be rented out for birthday parties and other events.
On the opposite side of the multipurpose building, phase one includes the erection of a 75-by-150-foot covered roller-skating rink. Hall said there is the option of transitioning the roller skating rink to an ice-skating rink during the winter months to get year-round access to the feature.
During the meeting, a council member asked Hall how the project will be funded. Hall responded by saying he would prefer to wait until the bids are received before openly discussing funding options.
Following the meeting, however, Hall did provide some insight to how the initial phase will be financed.
“We have several pots of money that we can pull from,” he said. “It will come out of several funds. The amounts and the amount of funds will be determined by the bids.”
He said the city will consider borrowing against itself to fund the project.
“The general fund will not be [accessed] at all. We don’t have the money to do that, but we do have other capital accounts,” Hall said. “I don’t want to get too much into it until we know what we can do after the bids come in.”
He said he anticipates the recreation center to be an attraction for families in and around Charlestown.
“We really do believe that it will become a destination area for young families to be able to come and participate in,” he said.
After the completion of the first phase, city officials hope to expand offerings to include a YMCA-type facility that will include an indoor swimming pool, digital gaming center and a large banquet room.
Hall has previously provided an estimate of $4.2 million to complete the entire project.
He said the Family Activities Center is one spoke in an overall effort to make Charlestown as attractive as possible to current and prospective residents.
“We have made no bones about the fact that we want to become the best place to live and raise a family, “ Hall said. “Everything that we do in this city is geared around attracting families to move here, live here and for our kids to come back and raise their kids here.”
Council member unanimously passed an ordinance, 2013-OR-01, that gives vendors and utility customers a two-year deadline to cash checks issued by the city.
Hall said checks are primarily less than $20 and have been issued to city residents who overpaid for their utility services.
The ordinance also will affect equipment and service providers who wait more than two years to cash checks issued the city.
The city also passed a resolution to obtain a property located at 101 Crestview Court.
“It was a property that was put up by the county on tax sale. They had no purchasers of it,” Hall said. “It is an abandoned property, run-down property. They had no one that wanted to purchase, so they just gave it to the city.”
Hall said he plans to have a structure on the property demolished and to bring the site up to standards. He said there are no plans for the property, other than leveling the structure.