STRASBURG — After citing budgetary concerns, a majority of the Town Council agreed on Tuesday to delay the board’s decision on whether to provide town funding for Strasburg’s proposed skatepark until the April 11 council meeting.
Most of council members agreed they need to learn more about the town’s anticipated fiscal year 2024 budget before deciding whether they can afford to provide up to about $153,000 in requested money for the skatepark.
The proposed admission-free facility would be used by skateboarders, rollerbladers, bicyclists and scooter drivers. At least some of the possible town funding for the park might come from Strasburg’s remaining amount of about $5.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money.
The skatepark, which would stand at the Strasburg Town Park, is meant to honor 8-year-old Trent Williams, who died in 2012 after battling cancer. The Tribute to Trent SkatePark Committee was formed by his mother, Jennifer, and former town Police Chief Tim Sutherly following Trent’s death.
“Now is the best time to invest in a skatepark for our town,” Skatepark Committee member Wyatt Vaught told the council on Tuesday.
He cited a current average skatepark construction cost of $50 to $75 per square foot. Using those figures, the construction tab for Strasburg’s proposed 8,480 square-foot skatepark would range from $420,000 to $636,000.
Despite rising construction costs, the more-likely total cost would be much less, Vaught said.
Last year, the Joplin, Missouri-based American Ramp Co. provided the Skatepark Committee with a conceptual design of the skatepark and an estimated construction cost of about $390,000.
More recently, and with the Town Council’s urging, the committee paid for Racey Engineering, of Luray, to provide an updated project cost analysis.
By using local contractors instead of out-of-state builders, the estimated construction cost would be reduced by more than $79,000, bringing the total to about $310,000, Vaught said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
He said the “largest and most generous donation” that the Skatepark Committee has received to date would result in even greater savings: Lee Gant, the quarry supervisor and safety coordinator for Pine Knoll Construction Co. in Clear Brook, has agreed to donate all costs associated with the land disturbance and excavation associated with the proposed skatepark.
“Believe me when I tell you, that is huge,” Vaught said. “It saves us $106,000, making our new total construction cost a little over $203,000. Our committee has about $50,000 (gathered over the past decade or so) to contribute, so the actual amount of required funding left is $152,995.”
He said building a skatepark in Strasburg would require little to no change in the town’ liability insurance rate and, because the park would be made of concrete, its long-term maintenance costs would be very low.
“This is a low-risk, high-reward investment that will continue to serve generations to come,” said Vaught, who envisions a project completion date in 2025 if all required funding is secured.
“Please choose to fund our skatepark in full,” he said of the requested $152,995. “Do it for this committee, do it for yourselves, but mostly importantly, do it for Trent.”
Vaught pledged to continue seeking grants and donations to help offset any town monetary contributions for the park.
Following his presentation, Council member Christie Monahan said the council had just received initial information on the town’s potential fiscal 2024 budget and needs more time to examine it.
“We might need to apply our ARPA funding to the needs of the town before we can look at our wants,” Monahan said.
New Council member Brad Stover, who is in his third month on the board, agreed.
“I haven’t had enough time to assess the town’s budgetary needs versus wants,” Stover said.
Council members Dane Hooser, Ashleigh Kimmons and Doreen Ricard each viewed the proposed skatepark as a need for fiscal ‘24.
“I want to see this as a priority for our budget,” Hooser said. “You (Skatepark Committee members) have worked on this for more than a decade. It’s well-deserved.”
Monahan, however, said it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to vote on potential town funding for the skatepark until the council can “get into the weeds” of next year’s preliminary budget.
Her motion to delay action on the committee’s funding request to the April 11 council meeting was approved with a 6-2 vote. Hooser and Kimmons cast the two “no” votes.
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