The Ridgecrest City Council at its meeting Wednesday approved plans to upgrade Pearson and Upjohn Parks for less than $500,000. The funding will come from $620,000 of the Tax Allocation Bond funds previously allocated for parks projects and a proposal for the remaining $120,000 will presented in the near future, according to a staff report.


Council approved a proposal from Rec West/Landscape Structures to supply both parks with new playground equipment for less than $500,000.  Previous bids ranged from $562,000 to $720,800 and would have required a new bidding process due to a technical error the first time around.


Council approved a purchase order for equipment rather than going through another competitive bid process at the suggestion of Council member Lindsey Stephens, who found the company online.

Stephens attributed the cost savings in part to dealing directly with the playground equipment manufacturer and cutting out the contractor as a middle man.


Design items for Pearson Park include a ZipKrooz 35 foot two-way zip line, a 10 foot turbo twister slide, a handicapped accessible OmniSpinner, a SpaceWalk Climber/Challenging Net Bridge and integrated shade throughout. The plans for Pearson Park also include two play areas for different ages, although Stephens noted adults are known to enjoy the ZipKrooz at other parks.


Estimated costs are as follows: Pearson Park playground equipment would cost $122,539.00 minus an 8 percent discount of $9,803.12. Taxes would be $9,300.71 and installation costs $113,490.41.


Design items for Upjohn Park Playground meanwhile would include a Rollerslide, a DoubleSwooshSlide, a WhooshWinderSlide, an OmniSpinner, a SpaceWalk Climber and integrated shade throughout.


Estimated cost for Upjohn playground equipment would be $117,068.00 minus an 8 percent discount of $9,365.44. Taxes would be $8,885.46 and installation costs $120,505.88.


Freight costs would be $12,600, presuming equipment for both playgrounds would be shipped at the same time. The total project cost would be $485,220.90.


Details still being worked out according to Stephens include pricing for more shade and benches.
The plan also includes engineered wood fibers, which Stephens said are ADA compliant,  as a surface instead of sand.


Stephens said a total timeline would be a maximum of 10 weeks. “We could see parks up by July,” she said.


This estimated timeline, once the purchase order is finalized and approved, would be three to four weeks for equipment manufacturing, one week for shipping and two weeks for each playground installation.


The recommendation came by way of Stephens and the quality of life committee. The proposal was picked for recommendation by the committee over two other proposals.


Stephens said the committee is also looking into acquiring fitness equipment for the parks, possibly partnering with other local organizations.


The plan met with near-universal acceptance by council and public; no one spoke up with any objections.


Scott Miller asked if the playground equipment was made of graffiti-resistant materials. Stephens said it is treated to make it graffiti-resistant and also comes with touch-up paint.


“I should mention to you, about the graffiti. This company is a company that works frequently down in LA,” she added.


Mike Neel said he supports upgrading the parks and saving money and offered a suggestion. “In light of the fact that we have been apprised in the infrastructure committee that getting our streets up to par is going to require three million dollars per year from now until the end of the time apparently,” he said a little facetiously, “anything we save on park expenditures, I am going to ask that that be funneled directly into roads maintenance, roads work.”


“I think Lindsey needs to be commended for her efforts here,” Councilman Mik Mower said, bringing applause.


Approval of the purchase order not to exceed $500,000 was unanimous. All five council members were present.


In a related item, council then voted unanimously to cancel their contract with HLA, the company that was handling the bidding process for the Pearson and Upjohn parks projects. The contract had $13,500 remaining on it, according to a staff report. Stephens quoted the city attorney saying the city could get out of contract by giving written notice.


In another item involving a different contract with the HLA group, Stephens received council's  blessing to re-think the direction of the Kerr McGee ballpark project along similar lines.


The ballpark project has been considered problematic because bids ranged from $2.7 million to $3.1 million, far exceeding the $1.7 million in TAB funds allocated for the project.


“The original direction didn't work because it was way out of our budget,” Mower said.


Stephens suggested looking into pricing shade structures, bleachers and lighting separately and breaking up the rest of the work into separate, smaller contracts for landscaping, irrigation, fencing and concrete work.


In response to a question from Mower, Stephens said she was not seeking to cancel this contract with HLA at this time, but maybe later.


City Engineer Loren Culp spoke up, offering what he called a “caution.”


“I would like to give a perspective on projects like this where you have a lot of moving parts, multiple contractors and things involved,” Culp said, citing challenges with coordinating multiple trades and contracts, public contract code requirements, invoicing and coordinating schedules.


“There can be a difficulty in managing multiple trades,” he said. “If there are scheduling conflicts, they are entitled to file claims for delay. There are definitely complications in the public works world.”
He also cited issues with inspections and permitting.


Dave Matthews also spoke up. He said he hopes something is done about lights shining on Downs Street.


Council ultimately voted for Stephens and the committee to pursue the new direction. Approval was unanimous.