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Leesburg Council Considers Downtown Splash Park, Performance Stage

© Leesburg Today - 10/28/2015

Construction prices are going up, prompting the Town Council to sort through its capital priorities Monday night.

Councilman Dave Butler submitted a list of several projects costing less than $1 million, and the council was in agreement for two: a children's splash park in the rose garden behind Town Hall and a permanent stage for performances on the Town Green.

""There's been a lot of constituent input that these things would go a long way to re-energizing the downtown area,"" Butler said.

Director of Public Works and Capital Projects Renée LaFollette said the Virginia Department of Transportation is experiencing cost increases ranging from 18 to 28 percent above engineer estimates. Also, the downtown improvements on King Street came in 37 percent higher than engineers' estimates.

She encouraged financial restraint and warned that money currently allocated to some of the projects on Butler's list may have to be used for projects higher on the town's priority list.

""If our main construction projects do rise, some available funding for these projects may have to be used for projects we already have,"" Town Manager Kaj Dentler said. ""Our available funding may not be as available as we thought.""

Most council members came to an agreement that the splash park and the stage would be two worthwhile projects to bring to a vote at a council meeting in two weeks. Butler's list allocated $200,000 for the splash park, but it will likely be more expensive, and $50,000 for a permanent stage on the Town Green.

""I would support the permanent stage; it's the cheapest project at 50 thousand dollars,"" Mayor Kristen Umstattd said. ""The splash park is a bit expensive, but I think it would be a huge draw during the summer for families to bring their children downtown.""

Umstattd noted the Village at Leesburg and the Lansdowne Town Center both have splash parks that are popular among residents.

""The splash park would really help liven up the downtown and increase quality of life,"" Butler said. ""I would hate to spend money on things like stormwater management and not do anything fun with the money. We should be able to do fun things with some of the money.""

Councilwoman Suzanne Fox said she thinks the permanent stage on the Town Green ""would pay for itself very quickly."" The stage, which would include power outlets, would improve conditions for the Acoustics On The Green summer-long concert series.

""Knock on wood, I think we could make the stage happen within the timeframe before next summer's concerts,"" Parks and Recreation Director Rich Williams said.

Dentler said staff would get more information before having the two items ready for a vote at a council meeting in two weeks.

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