Tension was in the air at the Thursday night Parks and Recreation meeting as the advisory board discussed how to use $1.9 million allocated by the Alaska Legislature for the Baranof Park Improvements Project.
Much of the Legislature’s grant has been spent, but almost $2 million remains to make improvements.
The board was tasked with making a recommendation to the Kodiak City Council, and after a heated debate, the board decided to prioritize putting in a synthetic turf for the baseball outfield.
Before the meeting, Parks and Recreation director Ian Fulp put together a document that listed projects by the greatest need.
About a dozen people, not including board members, attended the meeting to advocate different ideas.
Fulp discussed the need for new bleachers that can be used for football, track and baseball.
“I think bleachers are a safety and maintenance issue,” Fulp said. “They’re out of code, are 40 years old and beat up.”
Kodiak High School Baseball Coach Rick Langfitt was in favor of using the money to finish the baseball outfield.
“In all documents you look at to see the reference to the three surfaces — track, baseball and football,” Langfitt said. “We said the project cost $7 million. That’s the reason the legislature gave us $3.56 (million). It was not for extra money. It was funded to the total cost.”
Board members Marcus Dunbar and Charlie Powers echoed Langfitt’s argument and said the turf field will open up more playing fields for everyone.
“I’ve been talking to the city council and legislature for the last eight years,” Dunbar said. “The lack of field space was causing problems in the whole community. We knew synthetic turf was the only answer and here we finally have the money and it’s finally happening.”
Other board members advocated in favor of dispersing the money so other groups could benefit.
“The money is extra in my eyes,” board member Derrik Magnuson said. “I’m not a fan of taking everything we have and trying to get an outfield. The grant doesn’t outline these three things.”
A request for bids hasn’t been put out for the synthetic turf outfield, but unofficial estimates from Ohno Construction put the cost of the outfield between $1.4 and $1.7 million.
The motion to make artificial outfield the No. 1 recommendation passed 4-3. Powers, Dunbar, Amy Fogle and Jim Willis voted for the motion, while Natasha Hayden, John Butler and Magnuson opposed.
The city council will make the final decision on how to use the money, but will consider the board’s recommendation.
Jeremiah Gardner, owner of the bike shop 58 Degrees North, spoke up on behalf of the skate park. He mentioned that the skate park had the most kids using it at the time of the meeting and how kids could benefit from new equipment.
“Parks and Recreation has their say, and I just don’t understand why $30,000 or a little chunk can’t be set aside for the skate park,” Gardner said.
Gardner also cited safety concerns with the park.
“In the next year you’ll have two options: take it all out and close down or put money into it,” Gardner said. “It’s not safe. Just do something.”
After hearing Gardner speak, the board decided to make new skate ramps for the skate park the No. 2 priority on the list.
The board’s plan is to use the money for the synthetic field and use the leftover money to address other items as they are prioritized on the recommendation list.
In other business, the advisory board approved advisory board bylaws. Board members also thanked Fulp for his 39 years of service to the Kodiak community.