Highland News Leader

Highland to start all-abilities playground construction 9 months ahead of schedule

Learn why this family is excited for an all-abilities playground in Highland

Angie Daley, a Highland parent, speaks about what an all-abilities playground would mean to her family. Daley also touches on the challenges of some playgrounds in the area.
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Angie Daley, a Highland parent, speaks about what an all-abilities playground would mean to her family. Daley also touches on the challenges of some playgrounds in the area.

Construction of the new all-abilities playground will start ahead of schedule.

Over the last several months, the city has pursued installing an all-inclusive playground at Dennis H. Rinderer Park on Veterans Honor Parkway in Highland. The playground will include many custom features that allow those children and parents with handicaps to play alongside other able-bodied children, much like Hannah’s Playground in Breese, Illinois.

During the Highland City Council meeting on July 2, the council unanimously approved the project’s first phase of construction.

Director of Parks and Recreation Mark Rosen estimated that construction will begin sometime in late August or early September, with hopes of being finished by Nov. 1.

“The nice thing is that people have jumped on board,” Rosen said.

The construction timeline is well ahead of schedule. Rosen initially estimated it would not begin until around April 1 of next year.

Earlier in the year, Rosen was directed by the city to begin a campaign to raise funds for the project, which is estimated to cost about $250,000. So far, the city has raised over $85,000 in pledges, according to Rosen. And donations for the project keep rolling in.

Recently, the WISH Ministry from Evangelical United Church of Christ in Highland donated $6,400 toward the project. In addition, Robert Dunn, president of the Highland Optimist Club, said that his club plans to make a donation toward the project during its firefighter award ceremony at the Highland County Club on July 16.

The city also recently received $30,000 from The Disney Corporation through the the National Recreation & Parks Association for helping to facilitate play. But, the grant came with a few stipulations.

First, the project would have to have volunteer or donated work to be eligible for the funds, according to Rosen. To meet this requirement, he said that local Laborers have also donated about $50,000 worth of work to excavate, pour concrete and assist with installation. In addition to volunteer work, Rosen said that the city had to finish the first phase of the project’s construction by Nov. 1, otherwise it would be ineligible for the funding.

“I fear that by declining the generous gift from Disney, it would set us back considerably,” Rosen said in a memo to council members.

In light of the donation, the council approved the first phase of construction. Mayor Joe Michaelis, who typically only votes to break a tie, also weighed in during the vote.

“And I’m going to vote yes,” he said with a smile.

Rosen said this phase of construction is expected to cost about $232,000, which includes services to raise the main, four-sided, playground structure, with slides and wheelchair accessibility. This phase will also include installing the Rock-n-Ship, which is a wheelchair-accessible teeter-totter, and surfacing.

After this phase is complete, Rosen said the rest of the playground features will need to be added during a second phase. This will include the installation of wheelchair-accessible zip-lines, a merry-go-round, swings, and a bit more surfacing. The second phase is anticipated to begin sometime in the spring, according to Rosen.

As for additional funding, Rosen also relayed that the city will apply for a grant from the Metro-East Parks and Recreation District, which could bring an additional $120,000 to the project. An upcoming concert on Sept. 2 will also work as a fundraiser for the project.

A pass-through fund has also been established at the Highland Area Community Foundation for those wishing to make tax-deductible donations.

“I think this playground is going to set a bench mark for how we do future playgrounds,” Rosen said.

Public annexation hearing

The city held a public hearing regarding the proposed annexation agreement between the city and Justin Lowe. The agreement concerns property located at 12053 Highland Road.

City Manager Mark Latham said that the annexation was made in order to provide water and sewer services to the property.

Bus presentation

Jerry Kane of Madison County Transit gave a short presentation regarding the cancellation of Highland bus services as of August.

The route that is being discontinued is the No. 14 Shuttle, which has 10 stops throughout town and runs from 8:25 a.m. to 5:42 p.m., Monday through Friday. Kane relayed that ridership of this route has vastly decreased since the route was initiated in 2015.

Kane also mentioned that, if the city was interested, MCT could provide a vehicle for the city to run its own shuttle service. Latham said that in the coming months the city will explore options relating to a shuttle service. However, he said that he is not sure the city could afford to provide this.

The route will be eliminated on Aug. 10.

Sammie’s land lease

The council approved a lease of land to Peggy Price of Sammie’s Soft Serve and More.

The agreement allows Price to rent the space used for her business’s parking lot, which is just north of the CSX Railroad crossing on Poplar Street. Price pays $100 a year for the space, according to the lease.

Sammie’s is located at 304 Poplar St.

Surplus property

Two vehicles were declared as surplus property and will now be sold through a sealed bid process. The vehicles area 2007 Chevrolet Impala and a 2001 International Ambulance.

Highland EMS Chief Brian Wilson said that both of the vehicles have been replaced by new vehicles due to age, mileage, and increasing unreliability.

Wilson said that all fund received by the sale of this property will go back to the City of Highland Treasury.

HCS rates changed

The council approved a resolution to reduce the rates of various commercial and residential Internet services at Highland Communication Services, the city’s Internet, telephone and television company.

The change comes after the city recently moved to reduce the price of the residential “Gig-a-Share” plan, which gives the residential consumers a broadband speed of 1 gigabit per second (Gb/s).

HCS’s Director of Technology and Innovation Angela Imming said that the switch was brought on by the results of a recent survey the city conducted to help plan a road map for the service. Imming previously said that price decreases in other packages could follow.

The new changes reduce the rates of six commercial Internet speed plans, ranging from 100M upload and download speeds to the commercial equivalent of the “Gig-a-Share.”

Four residential packages were changed ranging from 100M upload and download speeds, to 200M upload and download speeds.

Preliminary engineering approved

The city approved two preliminary engineering service contracts with Oates Associates in Collinsville.

The first of these projects is for signalization at one of the city’s most dangerous intersection, located at the intersection U.S. 40 and Hemlock Drive/Frank Watson Parkway.

Services for the project include field surveying, permitting, signal plans, railroad coordination, specifications, estimates and bid assistance to design and prepare plans and specifications for traffic signals at the intersection. The hourly rates for these services shall not exceed $51,420, according to Director of Public Works Joe Gillespie.

The second preliminary engineering contract is for services relating to a project that will resurface about a half-mile on Broadway.

The services outlined in the contract include topographic surveying, project development report, plans, specifications, estimates, existing right-of-way limits, and bid assistance to design and prepare plans and specifications for resurfacing Broadway from Helvetia Drive to Iberg Road. Hourly rates for these services will not exceed $77,225.

Gillespie said that Oates was instrumental in securing federal funding from the Surface Transportation Program, which gives funding for a variety of projects that preserve or improve conditions and performance of transportation facets including public roads and infrastructure. From the program the city received $375,000 out of the total $500,000 project cost.

Gillespie said that both of these projects are budgeted in Non-Home Rule Sales Tax 20 percent Rehabilitation.

Bidding procedure waived

The council waived customary bidding procedures in order to issue the purchase of a 303.5 hydraulic excavator from Fabick Cat for $44,964.

Director of Light and Power Dan Cook said that his industry is moving toward underground construction, such as all new electric services in the city’s subdivisions and homeowner upgrades for existing services, due to aesthetic and reliability reasons.

“This piece of equipment will allow us to be more efficient while performing that underground work,” Cook said in a memo to the city.

The excavator will also help in the HCS build out, according to Cook.

Cook said that the particular model of excavator was chosen because it is the only model that has a rotatable bucket, which allows workers to use a shovel. That adds flexibility when digging near structures without having to dig by hand.

This purchase falls under the NJPA Pricing Program, which provides access to purchases through negotiated government pricing, according to Cook.

Demolition bid awarded

The council awarded a demolition contract to S. Shafer Excavating of Pontoon Beach in the amount of $16,800 to demolish properties located at 1311 Oak St. and 914 and 916 Deal St.

The city has been pursuing the demolition of the structures for several months. This is the second time the city has bid out this demolition. However, the last round of bids was rejected due to some unforeseen costs that were attached with correctly demolishing one of the properties, according to Latham.

The city acquired the properties through standard abandonment procedure.