Fresno’s little ones will soon get new playground equipment at a couple of city-owned parks.
This purchase gives the City Council an excellent opportunity to dig into the future of capital improvements in Fresno’s parks system.
It’s an apt topic in light of the unveiling on Thursday of Mayor Lee Brand’s budget for Fiscal Year 2019.
The council’s consent calendar on Thursday includes a proposal from Parks Director Parvin Neloms Jr. to buy playground equipment at a better price.
The plan goes like this: The state has various programs that allow a parks department such as Fresno’s to buy goods and services directly from suppliers through a cooperative purchasing agreement. The Parks Department wants to join forces with a specific playground equipment supplier and participate in one of these purchasing programs.
The company is NSP3. The purchasing program is California Multiple Award Schedule Government Purchasing Alliance.
What’s important here is that, with the council approval of the cooperative purchasing agreement, Parks will make good on a promise made in the FY 2018 budget. The council last June set aside $320,000 to buy new playground equipment for Fink White Playground in Southwest Fresno and Orchid Playground in Northwest Fresno. With only five weeks left in FY 2018, it’s time to fulfill that promise.
According to a staff report, the money will come from the federal Community Development Block Grant program and Parks Special Project funds. Orchid Park is next to Forkner Elementary School in one of the tonier parts of Northwest Fresno (just a few blocks south of San Joaquin Country Club). I didn’t know CDBG money could be spent in such a neighborhood. But I’ve learned over the years that there’s much about CDBG rules and Fresno City Hall spending habits that I don’t know.
(If the CDBG money is earmarked only for Fink White, the staff report doesn’t say so.)
I wrote at the top of this blog about Parks’ future building plans and the Mayor’s newest budget. One sentence in the staff report written by Parks Manager Tony Hernandez got me thinking along those lines.
Hernandez wrote: “In an effort to increase efficiency and productivity, and to decrease on-going maintenance costs of playground equipment, PARCS will be implementing standardization of playground equipment throughout the City of Fresno’s park system.”
According to its website, the Parks Department operates more than 80 parks and trails. All of them, of course, don’t feature playground equipment. But I’m guessing many do. Once Fink White and Orchid have new playground equipment, most likely several dozen additional parks will be next on the standardization list.
Where do we get the money? Which parks are the highest priority? Is equity also a factor in the drive toward standardization? If so, what about those parks such as Vinland that are located next to an elementary school whose playground equipment is available for public use during certain hours?
The staff report is focused on something specific – a purchasing agreement – and not these grand policy questions. But these questions, and others like them, have bedeviled public debate on Fresno’s parks system for decades.
Maybe Thursday’s consent calendar can be a good opening act to Mayor Brand’s budget extravaganza.