GREENBELT – It takes a village to keep children safe and healthy. Now, the Greenbelt City Council is ready to tackle a council-deemed “unsafe product” in the city to ensure the health of its children. At a meeting on July 11, the city council took its heated discussion to the play yard, metaphorically, as they […]
GREENBELT – It takes a village to keep children safe and healthy.
Now, the Greenbelt City Council is ready to tackle a council-deemed “unsafe product” in the city to ensure the health of its children.
At a meeting on July 11, the city council took its heated discussion to the play yard, metaphorically, as they hammered out a plan of action for replacing the shredded rubber ground in playgrounds around the city, specifically in two playgrounds owned by Greenbelt Homes, Incorporated (GHI). The topic was thoroughly discussed during a previous work session where the council had deemed the rubber ground unsafe due to reports of toxins in the substance.
Mayor Emmett Jordan said the two playgrounds, though owned by the homeowners association, are coved by the city’s Playground Use & Maintenance Agreement, in which the city agreed to maintain playground equipment in exchange for “long-term public access,” according to the agreement.
The agreement covers eight total playgrounds owned by GHI.
“GHI has indicated their desire to replace the shredded rubber with engineered wood fiber,” Jordan said. “In the (fiscal year) 2016 capital projects fund, this fund included funding for the work.”
Although every member of the council expressed a desire to replace the shredded rubber at the two playgrounds, and expressed a desire to do so at all playgrounds across the city, the council disagreed heavily on a key component of the contracted agreement between the city and GHI.
In the agreement, listed as item number four, GHI and the city agreed to a 25 percent reimbursement rate for work done to the playgrounds. The agreement specifically lists new surfacing materials and the “periodic replenishment of surfacing materials” as items where the homeowners association must share the cost.
Despite the agreement, some on the council, specifically Councilman Edward Putens, said they did not support charging the association for what they viewed as a “recall” of the shredded rubber.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $16,000, leaving GHI with an estimated $4,000 price tag. Putens said he cannot justify charging the association when he viewed the entire situation as a city issue.
The city put the rubber in, so they should pay for the removal of it as well, Putens said, and he made a motion for the city to replace the rubber without the cost share.
“I move that the council approves replacing the shredded rubber with engineered wood fiber and that’s it,” he said. “I was going to say the other part, but I don’t want to do it.”
However Councilwoman Leta Mach defended the city’s previous choice and said when they had decided to install the shredded rubber, they thought they were making a good choice.
“Everyone thought it was a good product. It was put down in good faith and now that some feel that it should be replaced; and I agree with that it should be replaced. I feel that the cost should be shared as well as it was originally,” Mach said.
She said as research is done and public opinion shifts, things will change and “always change,” and said she couldn’t support making a special exception and possibly a new precedent for future replacements.
Putens still disagreed and said GHI already paid for the installation of the rubber once and should not have to “pay for it twice,” comparing the issue to a parts recall in a car – something that must be done at the cost of the manufacture.
However, City Manager Michael McLaughlin emphasized the shredded rubber was not recalled and is still in use in many cities. The decision to remove the substance was the council’s.
The motion put forth by Putens did not pass; however, an alternative motion made by Davis was passed with only Putens dissenting.
Davis’ motion included the 25 percent cost share, but said the association can pay their share in an “installment plan agreed to by both parties at a future date.”
Moving forward, Assistant City Manager David Moran said the replacement at the two parks will likely occur during early fall.
“We’ll get to it as soon as we can,” he said. “We may catch a break; public works could squeeze it in, in August or September. But, you know, that’s the goal. As soon as possible.”