Leaks in three of the four temporary storage containers being used by Aberdeen Parks and Recreation have “lit a fire” in Aberdeen to find a permanent facility, the mayor said this week.
Aberdeen’s parks and recreation offices had to be moved in February 2015 after the mechanical system failed, causing pipes to burst in the old Aberdeen High School building on Route 40, Mayor Patrick McGrady said at Monday’s City Council meeting.
While the other offices in the building, which were county agencies, were relocated, Aberdeen Parks and Rec was not, McGrady said.
“As a consequence, parks and rec had no place to put the stuff they use for the 1,300 to 1,400 kids in the parks and rec program,” McGrady said.
The old building was never repaired or reoccupied. The county government transferred ownership of the property to the city last year, and the city is in the process of selling it to a developer for renovation into apartments and a daycare center.
Meanwhile, not being left totally out in the cold, Parks and Rec found a new home for its equipment. As a temporary measure, four “tractor trailer” containers, 48-by-10-foot containers, were installed in the parking lot at North Deen Park to house the equipment.
Last week, however, leaks were found in the roofs of three of those containers, McGrady said.
“We’re not sure how long they existed, but it was long enough to get the equipment, much of which absorbs moisture, very wet,” the mayor said.
Damage to the equipment was estimated at $26,000, Aberdeen Parks and Rec President Don Ewing said.
“We’re definitely in dire need of storage,” Ewing said.
“This really lit a fire under lots of people who want to see a solution to this problem,” McGrady said.
As a result of the “terribleness,” the mayor said, volunteers used their personal trucks to another temporary storage space offered at no cost by local businessman Art Helton.
“It was very generous, a great opportunity at the right place at the right time,” McGrady said.
The offer, McGrady said in a staff meeting just before Monday’s meeting, is free storage for three weeks. After that, Helton said he would charge $1,800 per month to keep storing the parks and rec equipment on the former Viele Lumber Co. property on Route 40.
In a move criticized by some residents, the city recently signed a contract with Helton to sell him the former Moose Lodge property on North Rogers Street for $50,000. The city bought the property for $400,000.
The mayor and city council want to erect a 60-by-100-foot steel building in the same parking lot where the leaking containers have been sitting. Ordered, delivered and installed, the engineered building would cost $70,000; electricity for lights and security cameras would be an additional cost.
McGrady said city officials hope to meet soon with county representatives to see how much the county would be willing to contribute to the new building.
“We hope to pull the trigger on getting this thing done sooner rather than later,” McGrady said.
A meeting was planned for Thursday afternoon between the county administration and the City of Aberdeen, Cindy Mumby, a county spokesperson, said.
The county paid for the containers that were put in at North Deen Park because parks and rec had to leave its office in the old high school building, which the county owned at the time, Mumby said.
Councilman Patrick Vincenti said he hopes the county can support the city’s efforts for the new building.
“[Director of Administration] Billy Boniface, McGrady and I agree they need something,” Vincenti said Wednesday.
A full-scale building with heat and running water may not be necessary, however, if the city intends to one day build an activity center like other communities have, he said.
“There are other ideas, plans in the pipeline, that something else may happen at other lcoations,” Vincenti said.
Over the last week he has worked with Aberdeen Parks and Rec officials to distribute a formal letter to solicit donations to cover the costs of the lost equipment and in two days, $2,000 had been raised, he said.
“I think the community will step up and help wherever it can, but it’s good to have all the major players together to get it done,” he said.
If all goes according to his schedule, McGrady said, the new building could be ready in 10 weeks.
“That’s my hope and dream, but stuff always comes up,” he said.