Harmony Playground clears last funding hurdle

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CLAYTON — The Town Council this month filled the hole in funding for Clayton’s first playground for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Through cash donations, grants and in-kind services, the Clayton Community Recreation Foundation had raised $656,000 for Harmony Playground at East Clayton Community Park on Glen Laurel Road. The town had committed another $786,810, including a grant from the state.

Still, that total of $1.44 million left the project about $675,000 short of its $2.1 million budget.

The Town Council closed the gap, taking money from cash reserves and from a Town Square capital project to round out the funding.

Councilman Michael Grannis said support for the playground was widespread. “I’ve spoken to ... 67 folks about this situation,” he said of the park and its funding needs. “And out of 67, I had 66 in favor of moving forward and one in opposition.”

With that said, Grannis then made a motion to plug the budget hole, and it passed without dissent.

The council did briefly talk about other ways to come up with the needed $675,000.

Grannis, for example, wondered whether the council could close the funding gap with bond dollars that Clayton voters had previously agreed to borrow.

“The short answer to that is yes, you could use the bond money for that,” said Town Manager Adam Lindsay.

But the park project is in motion, and Clayton isn’t ready to begin drawing down those bond dollars, Lindsay said. “Waiting until the bond money was available would put you in a delay,” he said.

Another idea was for the town to spend local dollars now and then reimburse itself with bond proceeds. State law allows reimbursement with bond dollars but only in a timely fashion, said Town Attorney Katherine Ross, and with Clayton ready to move forward with the park, the reimbursement window might be too long.

With the council’s action last week, Clayton expects to complete construction of the playground this fall.

In addition to equipment for sensory play, active play and passive play, the project calls for restrooms, a picnic shelter and parking.