Work is starting on a $600,000 all-abilities playground being built by the town of Milton in Burgess-Kimball Park off Geyser Road.
Following a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday, town officials hope to have the playground open by early August — and that it will attract handicapped children from throughout the state, providing an economic development benefit.
“We’ve already been contacted by people in Rochester and Buffalo who say there are not that many of these playgrounds around and they will come,” said town Supervisor Dan Lewza.
The specialized playground equipment is being purchased under a state contract from GameTime of Fort Payne, Alabama, which Lewza said is providing $340,000 worth of playground equipment for $170,000.
There have been questions raised about the acquisition process and whether the equipment should have been bought through competitive bidding, but one of the critics, town Councilwoman Barbara Kerr, attended the groundbreaking.
“The project is great. The process …” Kerr said.
Lewza, however, said the playground is the result of two years of planning, and the equipment was clearly available under an Office of General Services contract when the Town Board authorized the purchase in December.
“I have zero problem with what was done,” Lewza said. “We got the best price through the state contract.”
The preparation of the site at the western end of Burgess-Kimball Park is being done by town highway and parks workers. Lewza said the town is soliciting bids to purchase a rubberized surface to prevent injuries for mobility-impaired children, but expects that surface cost to about $150,000.
Recreation fees collected from land developers are expected to pay the town’s share of the project, Lewza said. In addition, the Cortical Malformation and Cephalic Disorder Foundation has committed to raising $80,000.
Foundation President Krystyn LaBate, who lives in Milton, said her goal is to see the playground open by the third birthday of her son Giovanni, who has the condition, on Aug. 22.
“I am overjoyed,” LaBate said prior to the ceremony. “It’s nice to see it actually happening. It’s coming to the town in which I’m living.
“Children with mobility issues, children with sensory issues, they’ll all be able to play together.”
Lewza said he expects there will be a “volunteer day” in early June to get the public’s help with installing some of the equipment. He hopes to see the playground open in early August.