The project, which has a budget of $300,000, will see the removal of the existing equipment and the installation of a new permanent play surface. The newest of the current equipment is decades old and the play surface is presently a wood mulch product that is relatively low cost, but labor intensive to maintain.
The board spent over two hours Monday comparing three similar proposals for the project.
The first proposal was made by William Fry, representing Fry and Associates -- the Kansas City-based firm that provided some of the playground's original equipment. Fry presented the board with two options, one with a larger play structure and poured rubber surface and a second with a smaller structure but with an alternate type of surface.
Fry explained the surface, known by the brand name Play MattaTM, uses a rubber layer covered in 20-square-inch interlocking tiles made from recycled PVC. While more expensive initially, Fry said the tiles had several advantages including less heat retention in hot weather. He said the tiles also do not suffer from shrinkage issues that can create cracks and gaps in poured-on surfaces.
Fry said his proposal included some of the newest and largest play structures in his company's catalog. He said the U.S.-manufactured equipment would serve to visually show patrons where the funding for the project had been spent.
Next to present was Jason Cates, representing Athco, LLC of Lenexa, Kan. Cates' proposed an updated version of the current playground. It featured a larger play structure than currently exists using what he considers to be top-of-the-line materials. Cates told the board the structure had features like aluminum posts that won't rust and UV resistant plastics that won't fade.
"That way your reds won't become pink," he said.
Cates also noted the fittings for the playground equipment are tamper-proof requiring a specialty set of tools that can't be purchased at ordinary hardware stores.
The final presentation of the evening came from Ron Gable of Custom Property Solutions of O'Fallon and Michael Medley of Tacoma, Wash.-based Kompan. Custom Property Solutions is the Kansas City area contractor that installs Kompan equipment.
As with the others, Gable and Medley presented several variations using different pieces of equipment. Both the "explorer dome" and "galaxy" equipment used in the demonstration had similar features in different configurations. Gable said what made the Kompan products stand out is their open design that allows children to enter and exist from multiple points as opposed to other ladder/deck/slide products where direction of play is dictated.
"Each level of the playground has a play event for the children," he said. "It's just unlimited play value. The kids' imaginations can just run crazy with it."
As with Athco, the Custom Property Solutions proposal only included a poured surface option. Gable said his company has access to a tile product but he doesn't recommend it. He said his company is currently replacing several Playmatta surfaces which have not held up well over time.
Following the presentations, the board discussed the issue at length.
The first proposal, from Fry and Associates, was the first to be dismissed. Board members were not interested in the tile surface and felt the playground equipment presented did not provide enough separate play areas for children of different ages.
Similarly, the board had concerns about the design of the equipment presented by Athco, which featured a covered slide, among other features. Superintendent Mary Beth Scherer said there are several concerns about such features. First, students climb on top of them, which creates a safety risk. Additionally, they provide hiding spots, which present a whole host of other issues for the staff.
Elementary Principal Joe Beydler said the teachers he spoke with were impressed with the Kompan equipment.
"That company just has neater stuff," he said.
Board Secretary Alan Deatherage agreed, saying, "This looks more space age."
Beydler did say the teachers were concerned about the height of the dome because younger students sometimes climb up and then have trouble climbing down.
There was also some concern expressed because the Custom Property Solutions did not call for pouring concrete under the rubber play surface. Gable addressed this saying concrete could be used if the board preferred.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the Custom Property Solutions bid. In the motion, the board authorized a change order to include concrete work and additional equipment to bring the total cost of the project up to the $300,000 set aside.