Berne's Lehman Park will take on a fresh look next spring with the addition of new, modern playground equipment to replace outdated equipment that has been in place for decades and in some cases has been deemed unsafe.
Profits from three annual Fall Harvest festivals, coupled with private donations, left the Berne Park Board with $19,500 in its park equipment fund earlier this month, board president and city councilman Ron Dull told city council members Monday evening.
As park board members explored their options in the purchase of new playground equipment, he said, they learned that a matching grant from the GameTime company would allow the purchase of a $58,000 piece of playground equipment for roughly half that cost. But more local money was needed.
Dull said park board member Amanda Patterson took the bull by the horns and during the past two weeks almost single-handedly raised an additional $10,700 in private donations and pledges to be used for the purchase of the playground equipment.
The total purchase cost of the equipment, after shipping and installation and other miscellaneous expenses, came to $65,731, said Dull. Counting the money it had on hand, and taking advantage of the 50/50 matching grant offered by GameTime, the park board was still some $11,000 short of its goal.
That's where the city council stepped in, agreeing to expend money from its Rainy Day Fund to make up the difference.
"We kind of feel that, with this much effort coming from the community, it would be appropriate for the city to do its part, too," said Mayor Bill McKean.
Councilman Phil Provost agreed, saying, "This is a heckuva investment for the city. With more than 40 percent of the funds raised privately, this is a great model of how government can be effective and efficient."
Council voted unanimously to approve the expenditure.
Patterson said the city's cooperation "allows us to be good stewards of the money donors have given us."
Dull said the equipment is expected to be put in place sometime next spring. It will be positioned on the west side of Lehman Park, near the baseball diamond concession stand.
The city's purchase of new playground equipment comes on the heels of a recent Indiana Municipal Insurance Program report that contained "a laundry list of things we need to work on down at the park," including the eventual removal of outdated slides and other safety upgrades, Dull said last month.
In October, the city council agreed to remove two pieces of playground equipment from Lehman Park that had been deemed safety hazards.