The Ridgecrest City Council at its meeting May 17 approved up to $750,000 for a fountain/splash pad, movie screen and seating for Freedom Park. Equipment will be bought and installed using a purchase order and therefore sidestep the construction bidding process. Funds are to come from TAB funds.
The manufacturer for what is being called the Freedom Park Enhancement Project is RecWest/Landscape Structures, the same company council approved to provide playground equipment previously.

The planned project would include an interactive fountain splash pad, a movie screen and sound system and an outdoor seating area. The current plan was for use of the facility to be free except possibly for party rentals and not gated. It would contain a 50-by-95 foot pad with a functional capacity of 150 to 200 people. The location would be off the Kerr McGee Parking lot along the sidewalk.

The project has been championed by Councilwoman Lindsey Stephens, with input from the Quality of Life Committee. She said the facility would use approximately 5,000 gallons of water a day and yearly maintenance and operation costs would be approximately $115 to $130 per operating day, including water, electricity, maintenance, sewage and chemicals.

The system would recirculate and treat water. Water would be chlorinated using an UV system, Stephens said.

In response to a question from the Daily Independent, Parks and Recreation Department Recreation Supervisor Jason Patin said the Kerr McGee restrooms would be open during night time movie-viewing events.

“We would have to keep them open or the Oleanders would get watered,” he said with a laugh.

The renderings designed by the company featured a patriotic theme to go with Freedom Park. This worried Scott Miller, who asked if the bald eagle featured in the design would have water shooting out of it.

Stephens said she did not know for sure.

“Can we say, absolutely let's not make that happen?” Miller said. “That would be offensive. I just had this mental image of water coming out of its head.”

Most of the people who spoke up strongly approved of the idea as an enhancement to the community.
A big exception was Ron Porter.

Ron Porter questioned the accuracy of the operating cost estimate, calling it “not even close to being accurate.” He also brought up concerns about security, cleaning, liability, vandalism, and evaporation.
“I don't approve of this,” Porter said. “It is my tax dollars and I am getting no quality of life out of it. The people I've talked to are getting no quality of life out of it.

“I don't know how I managed to survive out here when we didn't have a splash pond and a swimming pool. It's not our job to entertain the children. This isn't giving the public a choice in how it [the money] is spent.”

Porter added he approves of a public swimming pool because it allows kids to learn how to swim.
Another question was about “midnight mis-users,” such as vandals or people playing in the area at night. Council discussed the possibility of a night time fence, but Stephens said she thought the close proximity of the Ridgecrest Police Department would serve as a strong deterrent.

The facility would use the restrooms in the Kerr McGee Center. Parks and Recreation Department Recreation Supervisor Jason Patin acknowledged that this plan could cause some issues.

“Is it ideal to have people walking down the hallway when there is a wedding reception going on? No. But it can be mitigated I think,” Patin said. He later added that non-slip surface pads would be added in the restroom area. “We can't have people ice-skating down the hallways.”

Asked his point-blank opinion by Councilman Wallace Martin, Patin had this to say: “It's a beautiful project. I think anything we can add to quality of life is beneficial to the town.”

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Mower said he agreed with Porter. “I think it’s going to cost more in maintenance [than Stephen's estimate],” he said.

Patin said he estimated additional staff costs at “an hour of staff time a day, maybe two hours on weekends.”

Approval was unanimous, with a correction of a typo in the staff report showing the cost as $750 rather than $750,000 in one place. Vice Mayor Eddie Thomas was absent. The approved resolution was met with applause from the crowd.

Council also voted unanimously to cancel a contract with HLA Group regarding the Kerr McGee Project, another item put on the agenda by Stephens.

The contract had approximately $20,000 left on it.