Johnson City commissioners give their blessing to sesquicentennial project

Zach Vance • Dec 19, 2018 at 10:38 PM

“You’re on the right track.”

That was the message Johnson City commissioners delivered during a Wednesday workshop to the committee tasked with raising about $1 million to build an adventure playground and historical plaza at King Commons Park to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary in 2019.

With bids for the project expected to be authorized in early April, the workshop was organized to ensure city commissioners, Sesquicentennial commissioners, city staff and the company designing the playground and plaza were all on the same page.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, who organized the meeting, said she felt better about the project after the workshop concluded.

“I do, I feel very good. We’ve talked about all sorts of different things, and they’ve finally landed on this,” Brock said. “This is all about our young people, and it’s going to be exciting to leave this legacy park to our young people for years and years and years to come.”

Depending on how much money is raised by March, the Sesquicentennial Commission’s first priority is to build the adventure playground, then the history plaza; last is a proposed fountain.

Based on the latest rendering, Jennifer Salyer, project manager at Barge Design Solutions, said the natural playground would include an outdoor classroom, a slide, climbing ropes and nets, a musical play area with a variety of instruments, a storybook station.

The history plaza would feature the three-star emblem on the Tennessee state flag,  initially designed by Johnson City attorney LeRoy Reeves. In the center of the plaza would be an ornamental dome and various “bands,” describing significant events in Johnson City’s history, would circle the dome.

Based on a presentation from Salyer, the estimated construction cost of the playground would be $1.15 million and the history plaza would be $450,000. Including the estimated $188,000 cost for restrooms and a 10-percent contingency for construction and design, the total signature project is expected to be a little more than $2 million.

Salyer’s playground design did include making modifications to parking for ADA accessibility, but City Manager Pete Peterson said some cost savings could be achieved by designating the street for ADA parking.

Since launching the “quiet phase” of its fundraising initiative in early November, the Sesquicentennial Commission’s fundraising committee has collected $585,000 in donations and commitments. The fundraising committee is also expected to receive around $205,000 in in-kind donations.

The city has already committed to spend $1.3 million on the project, leaving the Sesquicentennial Commission with about $500,000 more to raise before its March 1 deadline.

Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, who’s been helping coordinate the project, said bids for the playground and history plaza will come in around March 27, and commissioners will vote to authorize those bids during their first meeting of April.

If necessary, Pindzola assured the commission that his department could step in and complete some of the work to make ends meet.

All five Johnson City commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting commended the Sesquicentennial Commission and its committees for the work they’ve accomplished so far.

Without their help, Commissioner Joe Wise said getting this project completed before the 150-year celebration in December 2019 would not be possible.

“This is contiguous to the library, its contiguous to King Commons and it creates one continuous band of public infrastructure that is only possible, right now, because of the Sesquicentennial (Commission),” Wise said. “Is it exactly what I’d hoped? No. But is it generally in the right direction? Absolutely ... Just plow on. I think we’re on the right track.”

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