EARLY — Early city officials are looking toward improvements to the city’s baseball and softball facilities.
Early City Council members approved an engineering agreement Tuesday with a company called Volkert. Volkert will do engineering and design of ADA parking and sidewalks at City Park baseball and softball fields.
The engineering cost will be about $30,000, and the cost of the construction project will be about $150,000, City Administrator Tony Aaron said.
“For years we’ve had requests from people who have mobility issues to provide a safe walking area, for them to get from their cars into the baseball (bleachers),” Aaron said.
“It’s likely that this year we will get the engineering and design out of the way and then move on to phasing in the sidewalks and parking over the next couple of budget years, just to keep those costs down.”
The city is also redoing a City Park softball field and putting in new dugouts, new seating areas, and redoing the fencing, Aaron said.
Also Tuesday, council members discussed possibly building a new baseball and softball facility.
“We’re in the early stages of looking and exploring the option of building a new ballpark facility,” Aaron said. “It would be at a different location. There’s no more room at the existing facility. We would continue to operate and maintain the ones we have now. We’ve got too much invested in those to just abandon those.
“Right now we are looking to hire a consultant that would give us a design concept and a construction estimate. The overall goal would be to basically give us a snapshot of what these parks would look like and what it would cost the voters to build those.”
With that information, council members could decide whether to call a bond election and let voters approve or disapprove the project, which could have a cost “upwards of $2 million,” Aaron said. A new facility could also create additional operating costs of $100,000 to $150,000 a year, he said.
“This is definitely something we can’t do without affecting the tax rate,” Aaron said. “Because of that, we feel like the voters need to be making that decision. Some people see that as a priority for the community and some people may not. We’re just trying to get the information together so we can make that determination to send it to the voters for approval or not.”
If the city calls a bond election, it might occur in November or possibly in a special election in the summer, Aaron said.
“If we can identify the engineer and get that side of it worked out, we should have the preliminary information within a month or so and then it’s just a matter of setting the election and giving those who are proponents or opponents of it time to make their case,” Aaron said.
In other business Tuesday, council members approved an economic development agreement between the city and Jaman Holdings related to a mobile home park application at 207 Garmon.
Aaron said a park existed there but consisted of 13 dilapidated structures. The previous owner “got everybody out of those, pulled utility meters, and they were just sitting there,” Aaron said. “A new company came in and bought them. They have since gone in and have demoed all of those out. It’s a great clean piece of property now.”
The new owners have put in new electric service and are working out a rezoning agreement with the city, Aaron said. He said the owners plan to move in 11 new mobile homes as rental property.
Water and sewer improvements are needed, and based on the agreement approved Tuesday, the city is procuring materials. The developer is paying the cost of materials for water and fire hydrants, and the city is providing the installation labor, Aaron said.
Because the sewer services will be for other residences in the neighborhood, the city is covering all of the cost of the installation, Aaron said.
“Affordable housing is a big thing that Early needs, and this is affordable rent housing,” Aaron said. “It’s not government subsidized. It will fill a void that we’ve had for good, quality affordable rentals.”
Also Tuesday, Aaron gave a report on the demolition of the old water treatment plant, which was decommissioned in 2015. After the demolition, the property will have large ponds remaining, Aaron said.
“We’re looking in the future at turning that into another park facility,” Aaron said. “That would possibly be a family fishing park that we would stock and maintain. People would have a place inside the city limits to take their family fishing if they wanted to.”