Westminster city park to get major face lift


Westminster toddlers and older children will soon find brand-new swings, slides, spring animals and other playground equipment at the city park.

The playground will close for a week next month, to be reopened with three areas for preschoolers and older children that will be safer and more accessible, Ronald J. Schroers, city recreation director, told the mayor and Common Council last night.

With three council members absent, the council lacked a quorum for the first time in at least 12 years, said Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. Council President Damian L. Halstad said an extra meeting might be scheduled Monday night.

No official votes could be taken last night, but the council heard comments on its planned support of a bond initiative by Western Maryland College, listened to staff presentations on the playground, and heard about plans to seek state funds to improve a pocket park on Locust Lane downtown.

Of the playground, Schroers said, "On Aug. 7, we will shut down for a week to revamp the whole entire park."

Much of the equipment that has been donated over the years has deteriorated or is unsafe, such as a 20-foot slide, he said.

These items will be removed and replaced with newer equipment, including play structures with slides and bars, swing sets, spring animals, roundabouts, a climbing sphere, a train and other equipment.

"That park is loved. It is used," Schroers said.

The city received about $40,000 in state Program Open Space money for the project, he said, which also will include refurbished restrooms, a new water fountain and a state-of--the-art fiber surface to replace the wood-chip surface of the play area.

New ramps will be added to the skateboard park.

In other business, the mayor conducted a public hearing at which no opposition was expressed to the city's support of Western Maryland College's plans to issue $21,750,000 in economic development revenue bonds.

The city faces no financial obligation in the bond issue, but its validation would allow the college to sell the bonds as a tax-exempt entity.

In addition to about $12 million in debt refinancing, the college plans a $7 million renovation of two classroom buildings, known as old and new Lewis Hall, which adjoin its new science center, said Joyce E. Muller, associate vice president for communications and marketing for the private college.

Karen K. Blandford, city manager of housing and community development, also outlined planned improvements to Locust Lane, the pedestrian mall off East Main Street. She needs the council's approval before applying for about $8,300 in state funds for the project, which would improve handicapped access to shops along the brick-lined lane by raising the walkway level with door sills, Blandford said.

An outdoor sculpture and a visitors kiosk to mark the beginning of a downtown heritage trail might be added.

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