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Bladenboro Board talks about state of town parks during budget meeting

The Bladenboro Town Board met on Tuesday night to resume discussion of the proposed 2017-18 budget. The board held a lengthy discussion about the state of the town’s parks, namely Wateree Park.

After asking each Town Commissioner if they had anything they wanted to discuss, Mayor Rufus Duckworth said, “One thing I think we’re going to have to look at—I think we’ve got in here (the proposed budget) about $5,000 for the parks. I think everybody here has had the opportunity in the last week to go out to Wateree Park. We’re going to need some more money. We’ve got some major stuff we’ve got to do out there.”

One item Mayor Duckworth discussed was the installation of a new metal door on the concession stand for Wateree Park. Mayor Duckworth said the door does not fit correctly and people are having difficulty getting the door to close properly.

Mayor Rufus Duckworth itemized the needs for Wateree Park as new swings, playground equipment, replacement of some of the bleachers, and the concession stand is in need of repairs. He also said trees need pruning, the grass needs to be cut and a ditch near the park needs to be cleaned.

“I think we’re going to have to look at this budget and find some way to get this park up to an acceptable level,” said Mayor Duckworth.

“Well, I understand what you are talking about but, if you don’t invest in some security cameras, I mean, you’re just wasting your time on a lot of that stuff,” said Town Commissioner Billy Ray Benson. He said people who are going to the park and damaging items there need to be held accountable. Mayor Duckworth said while he agreed with Benson regarding the vandalism issues, he also said he could see neglect of the park.

Town Commissioner Sarah Jane Benson questioned if there is an alarm system installed on the concession stand. Commissioner Billy Ray Benson said there is an alarm system installed but it is an older model. Mayor Duckworth said you can obtain an alarm system that is monitored and the police are contacted if it goes off but there is a fee associated.

Mayor Duckworth also inquired about a side arm bush hog to clean the ditches. Town Clerk Melanie Hester said the cost is $50,000 and the company the town contracts with performs the service twice per year.

O’Daniel said he had recently met with representatives from Golden Leaf regarding a grant to clean the Bryant Swamp Drainage system. “If we are awarded that grant that will be funds that will help go through there and clean up. A lot of the issue with Wateree is where the sand from farther up has washed in there and kind of stopped. The water doesn’t move through as well as it was,” said O’Daniel.

He said if the town is awarded the grant, the funds will go towards cleaning the ditch out.

During the discussion of Watree Park, Town Commissioner Billy Ray Benson said McLean Park also needs the grass to be cut. He said ball teams who have been using McLean Park to practice are complaining about the condition of that park. McLean Park is the newest park constructed by the town. The needs at McLean Park include grass needing to be cut and trees in need of pruning as well as overall maintenance.

“What is disappointing to me, I guess, is that I think we are all in agreement we need to fix up both parks and maintain them, but it’s disappointing to me they have gotten into this shape. Are we going to invest a lot of money into bringing them back up and neglect them again,” said Town Commissioner Cris Harrelson.

Town Commissioner Sarah Jane Benson asked if there was anything the town could do while it is waiting to hear about the Golden Leaf fund grant to make the park more presentable. Mayor Duckworth suggested pruning the trees.

O’Daniel asked the board what they desired in terms of the needs for the two parks.

“I think we need to fix what we’ve got and maintain what we have already done at the new one,” said Mayor Duckworth.

Town Clerk Melanie Hester recommended to the board they create a list of priorities for each park and submit them to the town staff so they can obtain prices and present them to the board.

Hester explained to the board the original design configuration for McLean Park was for three ball fields, a parking area and the concession stand. The park is to be constructed in three phases. Hester said that in phase II there is another little league proposed and a softball field was proposed for the third. Hester said the second and third phases can be modified.

O’Daniel also told the board there was an error in some information presented at the last meeting regarding the cost to purchase a box blade. He said the proposed box blade will cost $1,200 not $12,000 as he stated at the last meeting. Mayor Duckworth suggested the town take the $10,800 difference created by the error and use it on the parks.

Other items discussed:

*The property tax rate will remain the same and there will be a slight increase in the utilities.

*The Public Works Department has requested the purchase of a single frequency ground penetrating radar at a cost of about $14,000. The board asked O’Daniel to research prices further on the item and bring his findings back to the board.

*The police department has also requested to purchase a new vehicle.

*The board also met in a closed session to consider a personnel matter. No action was taken in open session.

The meeting was continued until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 30.

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