The 10-acre park, located at Chesnut and East Park streets, was opened in 1977 through a roughly $33,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, according to city records. It included a softball field, picnic area and multi-purpose courts.
Riddled with crime, drugs and vandalism, Moon Park was cleared and made a green space in 2004, but a 2010 inspection noted the area was “virtually abandoned by the city,” according to a letter from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
Usage of LWCF funds, which applies to nearly every Sylacauga park, requires the city permanently maintain that property for public outdoor recreation. The only way to close a LWCF-sponsored site is to replace it with other land of at least equal value and usefulness. Otherwise, the city will be required to rebuild and maintain Moon Park. Councilman Shannon Darby said at a council work session Tuesday that some residents in his district would like to see the park reopened, but Police Chief Chris Carden said that is not in the city’s best interest.
“One problem we always had at Moon Park is its only accessible with a vehicle,” he said. “To walk to Moon Park, kids on Park Street would have to walk way over (County Road 511) and up Wood Street. It’s not accessible unless you have a car, and the cars would always come late and night, and that’s generally when we had our problems. It was just a bad idea.”
The city initially attempted to trade the park for Lake Howard and ordered appraisals on both properties in 2006. According to ADECA, Lake Howard appraised much higher than Moon Park and would appear a suitable replacement, but was ineligible because it is an existing recreation facility.
In May 2012, the city spent $750 on appraisals for potential replacement properties off Willowood Street and Sherwood Drive, as well as an updated appraisal on Moon Park, plus another $950 for the state Department of Transportation to review the appraisals.
A letter from ADECA recreation manager Rob Grant noted 14 deficiencies in those appraisals and informed the city, for the first time, according to City Clerk Patricia Carden, that a yellow-book appraisal was required.
Yellow-book appraisals are costlier and more detailed than a standard one, hence the price of $2,800 each for the three parcels. The city will also pay for another ALDOT review.
Carden said she did not know when they could expect to know if these properties, which would be maintained as green spaces, qualify for a transfer to resolve this ongoing issue, but there is a “good probability” they will fit the bill.
In other business Wednesday, the council:
• Approved a $3,500 change order from Lakeshore Environmental Contractors LLC to remove all floor tile and mastic in the City Hall lobby to abate asbestos. The original $35,385 bid was only for removal of a portion of tile around lobby entrances.
• Rejected bids received for HVAC replacement at J. Craig Smith Community Center.
• Approved a one-year contract renewal with Peoples Services, Inc. for yard waste collection from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, 2014.
• Approved a $15.57 refund to Vinour Finley Sr. for one month’s garbage fee due to no service received from July 19 to Aug. 13.
• Approved mileage and meal expenses for City Clerk’s Office employees Nora Sherbert and Sandy Sorensen to attend the annual SEIB local government benefits conference in Millbrook on Oct. 11.
• Approved expenses for Historical Commission members Linda Dickson, Mickey Orton, Gloria Owens, Geri Davee and Jim Green to attend Preservation Workshop training in Valley on Sept. 19. Registration is $15.
• Authorized $44,910 for accounts payable in August.
• Heard from First Presbyterian Church Pastor Ross Reddick, who thanked the council for considering his proposal for a two-year moratorium on licensing new payday lenders and title loan businesses in Sylacauga. Reddick said anyone interested in the information he collected on the topic could contact First Presbyterian.
• Heard Darby announce that Verlie B. Collins Center Director Michael Roy Williams has died. “Mr. Williams was a community leader, someone the children looked up to in that district, and he will be missed,” Darby said.
The council will hold a called work session to discuss assessment of the city-owned Avondale property today at 4 p.m. at City Hall. The next regular council meeting is Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.