LJ to pursue funding for improvements

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By Alex Wimsatt

 LEBANON JUNCTION - The question isn’t whether city officials would like to see the Lebanon Junction City Park undergo a major renovation, but how  they will pay for it. 

Having received a preliminary site plan outlining an estimated $153,000 in improvements to the park in December, council members recently met with representatives of the Kentucky Engineering Group to discuss the proposed project. 

Client manager Bob Taylor of the Versailles-based engineering firm began developing the site plan with input from city officials, local residents and members of the Lebanon Junction Parks Committee last summer. 

The initial design first presented to the council last month featured a number of improvements, including a state-of-the-art Thomas Playground, slides, monkey bars and teeter-totters, a merry-go-round, landscaping, lighting, signage, benches, picnic tables, a shuffleboard court, a sand volleyball court, restrooms and extra parking. 

Expanding the pavilion near Wall Street, improving the existing basketball court and several hundred feet of additional walking trail were also included in the site plan. 

Based on input gathered during several meetings in Lebanon Junction, Taylor said the Kentucky Engineering Group has since revised the plan to incorporate additional walking trails, even more parking and walking bridges across the creek that divides the six-acre park property, which lies between Wall, Derby and Church Streets.

With the revised master plan in place, project manager Matt Curtis said the Kentucky Engineering Group has been revising cost estimates and searching for potential funding sources. 

Curtis said there were a few funding sources for city officials to consider, including public and private grants as well as donations. 

With regard to donations, Curtis said the city could solicit items such as park benches and landscaping, monetary donations from the public, or in-kind donations from local businesses and individuals. 

As for grant funding, Curtis said two possible sources were the Kentucky Department for Local Government’s Land & Water Conservation Fund and Recreational Trails Program. 

Curtis said the city could request up to $175,000, adding that he was confident Lebanon Junction would be eligible for both programs. 

However, these programs require the city to match every dollar awarded with a dollar from a non-federal program, such as cash, in-kind work and/or donations.

Councilman Steve Masden asked if in-kind work previously done on the park could count toward the city’s match. 

Curtis said work done prior to the planning phase would not count toward the city’s match, but that the Kentucky Engineering Group’s fees, which the firm has agreed to waive until funding for the project is secured, would count. 

He also said any in-kind work that is done in the next phase of the project would count.

Taylor however told council members the Kentucky Engineering Group could look into the possibility of using prior work that had been documented toward the city’s match. 

In addition to the department for local government grants, Curtis said the city could be eligible for a grant from Kaboom, a non-profit organization that provides playground equipment with the understanding they follow the Kaboom community-build model. 

As Curtis explained, Kaboom’s community-build model requires that communities awarded grants enlist local volunteers and civic organizations to set up the playground equipment.

Cynthia Brown of the Bullitt County Health Department, said the city could also apply for a $40,000 grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which awarded 31 grants totaling more than $1.9 million in 2012. 

What’s more, she said the grant could be applied toward the first phase of the project and that the city would not have to match any funds awarded. 

Brown said the purpose of the grant is to reduce childhood obesity by encouraging physical activity and improving recreational opportunities in Kentucky communities. 

She praised city officials and the Lebanon Junction Parks Committee for the strides already made to improve the park, stating that all the prep work and documentation showed the community was committed to the project. 

“It shows everyone’s buying in,” she said. 

Brown said there may also be funding available to offset any matching funds the city would may have to provide to receive other grants. 

With the city’s approval, Taylor said the Kentucky Engineering Group would seek funding for the proposed park improvements, emphasizing that the city would not be obligated to do anything. 

And if the Kentucky Engineering Group is unable to secure funding, Taylor said the city could abandon the project, owing nothing to the engineering firm.

He also said city officials could break the project into phases and prioritize those phases according to what they would like to see done first. 

“There’s nothing set in stone,” Taylor said as he held up the latest site plan.

Council members voted unanimously to allow the Kentucky Engineering Group to seek funding for the project, agreeing to look over the site plan to consider priorities before their next regular meeting.