Austin Strong Foundation takes lead on inclusive playground

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Austin Storing Foundation is poised to take over the Monticello Parks and Rec planning for a new inclusive playground.

     The playground will be built next to the Aquatic Center on city-owned property.

     Parks and Rec has been planning for such a project for a year or more.

     The Foundation will now take on the planning, fundraising, designing, and implementation of the all-inclusive, interactive playground.

     “Having the assistance of the Foundation will push this project along for sure,” noted City Administrator Doug Herman to the Monticello City Council during their Oct. 19 council meeting.

     Mikinzie and Britt Smith addressed the council during the meeting, representing the Austin Strong Foundation. Mikinzie said as a non-profit, they are in a position to obtain grants for a project like this Parks and Rec or the city cannot. In fact, they’ve already applied for a $15,000 grant from the Jones County Community Foundation.

     “This is a nice way to kick off our fundraising,” Mikinzie said.

     The Austin Strong Foundation is in honor of the Smiths’ son, Austin, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 6. The Foundation raises money for childhood cancer research.

     “This whole community has been amazing to us,” thanked Mikinzie. “So we wanted to do something to give back.”

     She said building a handicapped accessible playground that provides interactive and educational opportunities for kids of all abilities is the perfect way to give back to the Monticello community.

     “With your blessing, we really want to be a part of this project,” continued Mikinzie. “We’d love a landmark here in memory of Austin, and a playground that will serve the community for years to come.”

     The council approved authorizing the Foundation to take the lead on the project.

     Parks and Rec Director Jacob Oswald said prior to COVID-19, the Parks Board was in pursuit of the playground project. Unfortunately, the pandemic halted fundraising goals.

     Plans tentatively call for a 5,000 square-foot playground, at a cost estimate of $185,000. Lights, benches, etc. would be an additional cost.

     Mayor Brian Wolken said it’s good to know Monticello can offer a playground structure for kids with mobility and sensory needs.

     “Kids of all abilities will be able to interact,” he said.

     Council member Dave Goedken praised the Foundation and the Smiths for wanting to get behind the project.

     “We’re really honored,” said Mikinzie.

In other city business:

   The council set a public hearing for Monday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. for the city’s FY 2020 budget amendments.

     • The council approved a sewer credit request from Angie Lambert Cox for $391.78. Council member Scott Brighton abstained due to his relation to Cox.

     • The council approved the FY 2020 Annual Financial Report.

     The city’s ending fund balance (all funds combined) as of July 1, 2020 is $4,229,485. The balance on July 1, 2019 was $5,616,016. Both are up from July 1, 2018 ($3,637,728).

     The city’s General Obligation Debt as of June 30, 2020 is $4,130,000. On June 30, 2019 it was at $5,136,142.

     • The council approved the Northridge Waterway Easement Agreements with five different landowners.

     The city accepted ownership of the Northridge Storm Retention area several years ago. Since then, the waterway has become overgrown with trees and grasses. The city previous hired B&J Excavating to remove the debris and grade the area to return it to its natural setting.

     • The council approved amending the city code of ordinances to allow the Park Board to increase their board members from five to seven. The two additional board members can reside outside of city limits.

     • Police Chief Britt Smith provided a brief summary to the council regarding the cost to upgrade the audio/visual technology inside the council chambers.

     The project costs could range from $19,000 to $24,000. Smith said some technology capabilities could be sacrificed at a lower cost of around $15,000.

     The current system the council uses to broadcast and record its meetings is around 17 years old.


Subscriber Login