By Lori Lindner
North Liberty Leader
TIFFIN– The City of Tiffin is ready to make a splash.
During its April 9 meeting, the city council approved preliminary cost estimates for a new recreational splash pad to be built in City Park near the ball diamonds. The proposed splash pad has baseball-themed equipment and multiple water activities.
First discussed in September 2011, the construction of a splash pad was added to the city’s capital improvements plan for fiscal year 2014-15, with a budget of $100,000. The equipment alone, to be purchased from the Cunningham Recreation equipment company, will cost around $36,500. Safety-grade surfacing will also be required, at approximately $12,000. Public works employees will install the water lines that will feed the splash pad, while bids will be sought for the necessary concrete work and plumbing.
Though a splash pad falls in the project list for the upcoming fiscal year, Mayor Steve Berner said the city would like to begin work as soon as possible so it will be ready for public use this summer.
“We have TIF (tax increment financing) funds available now, and since we are planning to do the project anyway, is council willing to work on it a little earlier?” Berner asked. None of the council members objected.
Currently, funding for the splash pad is expected to come out of the parks and recreation budget. However, Tiffin has a balance of $300,000 in unspent TIF revenues that could potentially be shifted to fund this or five other projects on the city’s list of capital improvements.
City Administrator Michon Jackson said Monday she is consulting with the city’s legal counsel to determine if Tiffin’s urban renewal plan can be updated in time to include the splash pad, since the park is not currently in a designated urban renewal area.
Since the splash pad is considered horizontal infrastructure– basically, a park installation– and not a building, the city would not be required to conduct a formal bidding process as on larger projects. Berner said Public Works Director Brett Mehmen (absent from the meeting) was planning to get estimates from concrete and plumbing contractors that had previously been involved in city projects, but council members encouraged Mehmen to advertise that the city is seeking bids.
“I don’t like this closed circle, pick-your-buddies-that-you-work-with approach,” said councilor Peggy Upton. “We can put an advertisement out there even if we don’t have to put it out in a formal bidding process.”
Council member Mike Ryan agreed.
“I think the consensus is we prefer to advertise and seek bids for the infrastructure,” said Ryan. “That way, there is no way anybody can complain, everybody gets a fair shot at it. I don’t think it’s a buddy thing, but at least there would be no appearance of that.”
After the anticipated costs for equipment, safety surfacing, concrete and plumbing, there might be funds left to add more water features and still stay under the $100,000 maximum the council budgeted for the project.
However, the council members couldn’t determine which additional features they wanted, without knowing if there will be money left after bids for infrastructure are received. Therefore, they directed that Mehmen should seek bids for two levels of setup; one with basic features and one with more options.
Let’s have Brett option ‘great,’ and ‘awesome,’” said Ryan.
Weather permitting, the splash pad should be operational by late June or early July, Jackson said.