Church Hill splash pad opening delayed, pool likely closed all summer

Jeff Bobo • Apr 23, 2020 at 3:00 PM

CHURCH HILL – The summer of 2020 just got a little bit hotter for youngsters in Church Hill, but some relief will hopefully arrive in August.

Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, the completion of Derrick Park’s new $280,000 Splash Pad, which was scheduled to open June 6, is now delayed until August.

The COVID-19 crisis also gets the blame for the Church Hill Public Swimming Pool not being opened this summer.

Mayor Dennis Deal made those announcement at Tuesday's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, noting that this will be the first summer he can remember in his lifetime when the Church Hill pool wasn't open.

“That's the limbo we're in”

“Most of the time we have our new (swimming pool staff) hired in March,” Deal said. “We have not done that … and normally we would already be started cleaning, and we've not done that. So, probably the pool is not going to be open. Even if they turned us loose (from social distancing requirements), we wouldn’t have time to get the people hired and get it cleaned.”

Deal added, “You wouldn't go over there and invest all the man-hours, and buy all the chemicals, and send all the (pool employees) to be drug tested, not knowing if were going to be allowed to open. That's the limbo we're in.”

Splash pad opening target date in early August

As for the splash pad project, Deal said the state comptroller's office asked all Tennessee municipalities to put a hold on all capital expenditures for the time being until the post COVID-19 economy becomes more clear.

“We could have chosen not to do it, but we don't want to do that,” Deal said. “We feel like maybe by the end of this month they'll open that (social distancing restrictions) back up and we can move forward.”

Deal said the new splash pad opening target date is early August. 

The city has already purchased new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) playground equipment for Derrick Park which will be installed soon. The old playground equipment has been removed, and it has been determined that only the swing-sets can be salvaged.

As a result, the BMA's Parks Committee will be meeting soon to determine what new playground equipment will be purchased.

A $500K loan for Derrick Park

Deal said the city will also issue $500,000 capital outlay note which will cover the cost of the splash pad, playground equipment, two new picnic shelters, an amphitheater and additional parking at Derrick Park.

“We have the money to do it, but we've got commitments to the park down the road (off of Holliston Mills Road) that we committed to long ago. … Our total outstanding debt here in the city is $1.3 million. We could probably go in the morning and pay it all off, and still have $1.2 million left. Our finances are in pretty good shape. We've got the money to do what we need to do down there. But, I'm just telling you, we've got commitments at Holliston Mills we have to take care of.”

Bids for construction of the public railroad crossing into the future 65-acre Holliston Mills Road park goes will be opened by the city in early May.

“We really don't know what that crossing is going to cost us,” Deal added. “We knew that three years ago. If we get this done at (Derrick Park) and do what we're going to do at Holliston Mills, we should have a little bit for everybody in this city by then. I'm talking about older people, young people — we should basically have something for everybody.”

Holliston Mills Park project moving forward

It’s been slow going over the past few years getting the 65-acre Holliston Mills Park project started. The key has been completion of the railroad crossing, which is now expected to take place this summer.

Since 2016 Church Hill has had the $1.6 million budgeted for development of the new park, including a $500,000 LPRF (Local Parks Recreation Fund) state grant, and $1.1 million is local funding.

Phase 1 includes the railroad crossing followed by construction of a gymnasium, as well as a parking lot.

The long-term plan for the 65-acre property is to build a total of four gyms, a soccer field, two baseball fields, four softball fields, walking trails and two fenced-in playgrounds. 

City Recorder Josh Russell told the Times News on Wednesday that the railroad crossing construction bid opening was postponed until May due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“That gave all the contractors time to figure out what their material costs are going to be,” Russell said. “We anticipate work beginning this summer on the railroad crossing. We expect to see construction begin on the new gymnasium before the end of the year.”

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