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Budget numbers indicate Hawkins park director getting more done for less

Jeff Bobo • May 11, 2020 at 2:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Parks Director John Young managed to complete several projects, including installing new playground equipment and repairing flood damage at Laurel Run Park, while ending the current fiscal year a projected $13,000 under budget.

On Wednesday, Sarah Davis, county facilities manager, presented the county commission’s Parks Committee a proposed 2020-21 Parks Department budget seeking an additional $12,000.

The funding would pay for an extra part-time employee to help Young and his assistant during peak mowing season.

Mayor Jim Lee, who attended the Parks Committee meeting, noted that Young and his assistant had reached the maximum amount of comp time allowed, and there was a concern that Laurel Run might have to be closed one day per week because they’re working too many hours.

Committee members agreed that closing the park one day per week isn’t an option.

Following a lengthy discussion, the panel voted to recommend the $12,000 increase, as well as another $5,000 for part-time help to be used only if needed.

The Parks Department was budgeted at $185,714 for 2019-20, but is estimated to only spend $172,609.

Originally the Parks Department was proposing a $160,514 budget for 2020-21. With the committee's recommended $17,000 increase for part-time help, however, the new number which will be forwarded to the Budget Committee is $177,514 — still $8,200 below what was budgeted in 2019-20.

A new playground at Laurel Run Park

Young gave the committee an update on some of the projects that have been completed over the past fiscal year, including installation of new playground equipment at Laurel Run Park.

“One of the things that I was kind of proud of was we designed and constructed the new playground at Laurel Run Park,” Young told the committee. “It consisted of four swings, a slide and two see-saws, and that was one of the first things we did when I first started up there. … The kids seem to enjoy it pretty good because it’s kind of a different slide, and it’s got some little curves in it, so they use it a lot.”

Young added, “We also put two tractor loads of playground mulch in there. We had to put a whole tractor-trailer load into the new playground, and also we put a whole tractor-trailer load into the old existing playground because the mulch was all packed down and it was black.”

Upgrades and projects completed or underway

Workers also installed a new fence around the tennis courts and basketball courts, which had been damaged, and they received a new entrance gate sign, which was replaced at no cost to the county after the previous gate was damaged by a tractor-trailer.

Young said he repaired a roof leak and water damage in one of the rooms of the old park caretaker’s residence, which is currently not being utilized.

Young also remodeled the public restrooms and added ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) approved hardware; replaced a lot of the deteriorated park signage; constructed one of two new shelters planned for the park; and ordered six new grills for the shelters, which is half the number he needs to replace.

The current project is replacing the bridge that washed away at the trailhead. Work on that project was underway last week. Local Eagle Scouts supplied the materials, and Young and his assistant are providing the labor. Young said he hoped to have it completed next week.

At St. Clair Park, Young and his assistant put a tractor-trailer load of mulch on that playground, and they repaired damage to the concrete pad which was caused by a falling tree.

Laurel Run shoreline erosion project

The shoreline erosion project at Laurel Run has been completed to the extent that it was funded.

The Tennessee Valley Authority had contributed $50,000 worth of rock for the project. Some of that material is left over, but grant funding covered only the cost of doing the remaining 1,176 feet of shoreline left to be protected by the project.

The cost of completing the remainder of the park shoreline is projected to cost about $123,000, including additional rock.

Davis said the TVA may be able to contribute to the project again at the end of its fiscal year, if it has funding/resources available. What the park needs now from the TVA are larger boulders in addition to the smaller rock that was left over.

The committee agreed to recommend that the full commission approve a grant application to devise a 10-year plan for the county park system. Municipalities can also join in that grant to defray the cost, which would be 20% of the overall cost, or about $9,000 for the county.

Other types of grants require a 10-year plan, including a potential grant that could pay for completion of the shoreline erosion project.

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