County appropriates $10,000 toward Austin Smith Inclusive Playground

Board of Supervisors
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Jacob Oswald, Monticello Parks and Recreation director, took time to meet with the Jones County Supervisors on Feb. 22 to request a donation toward the Austin Smith Inclusive Playground Project in Monticello.

     In the end, the board ended up approving a total appropriation of $10,000; $5,000 in Fiscal Year 2022 and another $5,000 in FY23.

     Oswald provided some background to the board on the project… The inclusive playground idea actually started about three and a half years ago through Parks and Rec. When they were close to seeking project sponsors, the Austin Strong Foundation came forward to help move the project along.

     “The project got bigger and more expensive,” noted Oswald. “But they took the lead and Parks and Rec was still involved because it’s located in a city park.”

     About 10 months ago, major fundraising efforts kicked off. Oswald said the project is in the range of $425,000 and $450,000 thanks to in-kind donations and contributions.

     “We are just shy of $300,000,” Oswald informed the board. “We’ve been able to chip away to bring some expenses down.”

     As costs for materials continue to rise across the country, they had to commit to purchasing the playground equipment early to avoid a 12 percent price increase.

     “So we bit the bullet early,” he said. “But we continue to fundraise toward our goal of $500,000.”

     The board asked when they expect to see equipment in hand. Oswald estimated a possible delivery date of May.

     “We hope it doesn’t get pushed back too much further; we want it done by fall,” he said.

     Supervisor John Schlarmann asked whether the playground company was going to install the equipment or volunteers and local contractors.

     “We can pay them to bring in a crew and install,” said Oswald, “or at least supervise and we bring in volunteers to construct everything.”

     Oswald felt that the company would be better equipped to handle the large pieces of playground equipment more than anyone.

     He was a little leery of when construction might begin, noting that June and July are at the heart of the busy season for Aquatic Center, where the playground is located.

     “It’ll take a few days,” he warned of the timeline.

     “If you’re spending this amount of money on the equipment, I’d work with them (the playground company) to install it all and have it done right,” offered Schlarmann.

     Supervisor Jeff Swisher inquired about how many inclusive playgrounds are in the area.

     “I believe this is the only one in Jones County,” noted Oswald. There are others located in Dubuque and Linn counties.

     “I would support this because all of Jones County will benefit,” praised Swisher.

     The board asked Oswald if they could pledge so much over a few years or if the funding would be needed all at once.

     “We won’t turn down money because there will be continuing maintenance costs,” Oswald said of spreading the contribution over more than one year.

     In the past, the board of supervisors has contributed funding toward the new pool in Cascade, the Wapsipinicon Trail Project in Anamosa, and the Youth Development Center in Monticello.

     “You don’t find special recreational equipment everywhere,” Swisher said of the project like this. “Kids with disabilities will feel like a kid with this recreational opportunity.”


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