Cape Girardeau County commissioners approved $150,000 Thursday to fund an all-accessible playground.
Melaina's Magical Playground, named for Melaina Cunningham, a 3-year-old who died of complications from pneumonia earlier this year, will have equipment for people of all abilities and ages. Other options could include an all-accessible restrooms and handicapped parking spaces.
Before Thursday, about $10,000 had been raised for the playground. About $350,000 still must be raised. Equipment will cost between $225,000 and $250,000, a special, softer playground surface will cost $150,000 and grading, installation and labor will cost between $50,000 and $100,000.
"We're all appreciative of what the commission did for us," state Rep. Scott Lipke told the commissioners. "We feel this will be a great project for the community and others from other counties to use."
Lipke and Andrea Cunningham, the mother of Melaina and a driving force behind the project, also asked for the commission to sign off on an application for a $75,000 grant from the National Park Service's Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, the three commissioners voiced concern about signing off on a resolution of support because the county would have to abide by the rules and regulations of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for its entire 310 acres of parks in the county. The commission instead agreed to sign a resolution by changing the wording to specify it would be just for the area of the playground, which would be in Cape County Park South.
"I don't want to sign something that I don't know what their rules are," Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones said. "If that's what we have to do for $75,000, we don't want it. We'll get it from somewhere else."
Later in the meeting, 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell proposed the consolidation of two positions in the 2010 parks budget. Purcell, who oversees the parks, said combining the duties of the public works director and parks superintendent would save the taxpayers at least $56,000.
He believes other positions could be consolidated or eliminated and save more money.
"I'm starting with the consolidation of two positions in my area first so no one can point fingers at me when positions in other areas are proposed," Purcell said. "The new position would be reposted and both people who held the two offices, along with others, would be welcome to reapply."
Jones and 1st District Commissioner Paul Koeper did not comment on the proposal during the meeting.
In addition to discussion of the parks budget, the commissioners talked budgets of other offices, most of which had budgets that remained the same or increased by a few percentage points. The commission will hold public hearings at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, with a vote on the entire budget at the latter hearing.
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