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Church Hill's new splash pad expected to be open by June 6

Jeff Bobo • Feb 20, 2020 at 5:30 PM

CHURCH HILL — Mother Nature has been providing an all natural splash pad for the past couple of weeks, but this spring Church Hill will be putting a man-made splash pad in Derrick Park help keep youngsters cool when the summer heat returns.

On Tuesday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 6-0 to accept the lone bid of $280,590 from Vortex Aquatic Systems to install a flow-through splash pad at the park, located on the Holston River off Ordnance Drive behind Food City.

The new attraction is part of a major redesign of Derrick Park, which has already been approved for new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) playground equipment as well as the relocation of the existing playground equipment closer to the parking area and restrooms.

The BMA also wants to build some new shelters, increase parking, and put a bandstand where the playground is currently located to potentially host concerts and festivals.

Alderman Keith Gibson, who chairs the committee planning the park’s redesign, noted that the Splash Pad installation had to be placed on the fast-track to ensure that it would be completed by the beginning of summer.

The project will take 9-12 weeks to complete, and although the contract with Vortex hasn’t been signed yet, City Recorder Josh Russell said it will likely include a June 6 completion date.

The city had looked at splash pads that store and filter water, and pads that use run-through water. The latter system turned out to be less expensive and to have fewer potential maintenance issues.

The pad will use water only when someone is playing there.

“It’s on a five-minute interval,” Gibson told the BMA Tuesday. “There is a button, and you push that button and it comes on for five minutes. Then it goes off and somebody has to go push it again. I’m sure that’s on a timer that can be changed as you desired.”

Gibson noted that at a predetermined time in the evening, the splash pad will shut off for the day, and then it will be reactivated at a set time in the morning.

The design called for a wall around the splash pad, but the BMA chose to eliminate the structure, which saved $40,000 on the project. Gibson noted that those savings can go toward other proposed upgrades at the park.

“One of the reasons we need to act so fast is to basically get us on the schedule and get it done,” Gibson said. “We don’t want to put it off and get to the end of summer to get it done. In the contract, it’s going to say it has to be done the first week in June.”

Alderman Linda Miller asked if the city can afford it. Mayor Dennis Deal said yes.

Russell told the Times News Wednesday that the city can afford to pay for the project from reserves in the general fund, although the BMA could decide to complete all of its proposed Derrick Park upgrades this year.

If that’s the case, the city would borrow the money, Russell said.

The question of liability and supervision was also raised, but Russell noted that unlike the municipal swimming pool, there’s no requirement for supervision on splash pads.

Russell added, “I’ve spoken with our risk assessment person from the (Tennessee Municipal League) pool, and they said our insurance covers any type of (splash pad) issues, but there’s not a liability like there would be for a swimming pool, and we wouldn’t require the supervision.

Alderman Tom Kern, who is also on the Derrick Park upgrade committee, said the park will also eventually be under 24/7 surveillance to curb vandalism.