Kingston parks get boost from grant

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By Terri Likens, Editor

The fun factor is about to shoot up in Kingston.
Thanks to the efforts of the city’s parks and recreation department, the city got a grant to install brand-new playground equipment at Southwest Point near the track and soccer field, and upgrade equipment around the lake at City Park.
Rick Ross, the city’s parks and recreation director, jumped at a chance to apply for a state grant for the work, including revamping restrooms at the Southwest Point location.
And jump he had to — the applications became available in July and the work had to be done and submitted in  August. It was the shortest grant cycle the state has ever offered, Ross said.
He figured the tight turnaround probably eliminated many other potential applicants.
“I understand 99 entities applied and 49 got funded,” Ross added. The maximum grant was $200,000.
This month, city officials learned that they’ll have about $146,000 to work with, including matching funds for playground equipment by the Playcorp. vendor.
Standing in an open patch of grass where the Southwest Point equipment will go, Ross looked around.
“There’s been a need for playground equipment in this area for years,” he said.
The grants won’t be released until January, so the playground work is expected to start next spring.
It’s been a busy year for Kingston, whose city employees raised money for a huge, new covered pavilion at City Park and helped with much of the labor.
Ross and Fire Chief Willie Gordon spearheaded the effort.
“To be honest with you, it was a labor of love,” Ross said.
The effort has paid off in many ways.
People have flocked to the pavilion, where, at lunchtime, area workers can be found working on laptops and enjoying a sack lunch and the atmosphere.
The place, which rents for $25 an hour for private events, has stayed busy on weekends.
In fact, officials announced this week that monthly revenues for outside city facilities like the pavilion recently surpassed that for inside facilities, like the community center, at $450 compared to $350.
The city has found other ways to stretch its budget in these tough economic times.
Just two weeks ago, it finished a project in which it reclad every one of the city-owned docks with composite material, using state prison labor from the Morgan County Correctional Facility. Officials got the idea to revamp its docks after the city snared a major fishing tournament.
“I’d say we saved 60 percent,” said Ross, who supervised the work.