Aldermen Monday agreed to move forward with work at the Veterans Memorial Park with the approval of a preliminary plan to grade the park.

The grading plan and cost estimate was developed by Cochran and presented to the east park development committee last week. That committee made the recommendation for approval of the capital improvement to aldermen.

The board must approve the plan again when the 2013-14 budget is finalized later this year.

The grading is estimated to cost $574,325.

Shannon Johanning with Cochran said the ideal time to begin the project would be June or July so seeding can begin in September.

“It would be nice to finish going into the fall,” he said. “It is a perfect time to do the job if you start in midsummer and end in early fall.”

The work is slated to begin in the 2013-14 budget year.

The proposal includes a three-tiered field of different levels, according to David Van Leer, with Cochran. “That will minimize the amount of earthwork which would minimize the cost,” he said.

Van Leer said much of the cost will come from 100 cubic yards of earthwork. The plan is not final and bids could come in lower than estimated.

Johanning added that the project will be the most cost-effective if it is completed at one time because most of the topsoil that is removed from some areas of the park will be used in other areas.

“If you do this in phases in a five- to 10-year period it will probably cost twice as much in the end,” Johanning said.

The grading would be paid out of the city’s cash reserves, according to City Administrator Russell Rost.

He explained that the city’s budget policy requires 25 percent of the total budget to be kept as reserve in the case of an emergency.

“We have to keep on hand 25 percent of a one-year operational budget to protect the city in case of a catastrophic event,” said Rost. “We have met that level and exceeded it — if we trim the cash balance we will still be above the 25 percent in the policy.”

The city will seek bids for the work this spring. The bids may include alternatives including additional earthwork to ponds at the parkland where a passive park will be located.

Park Design

The park was planned to meet the growing needs of youth sports leagues in the Union area.

Plans called for two soccer fields, a football field, and a large tournament baseball/softball field and four smaller fields.

Also in the plans were marshlands and water sources to be utilized as a conservation area, or passive park, as well as picnic areas and shelters.

There also are playgrounds, a maintenance shed, lakes or ponds, pavilions and other amenities, including a “loop trail” intertwined with smaller trails.

The city purchased 43.8 acres of land earmarked for a park off Progress Parkway south of Highway 50.

Park Planning

SWT Design utilized requests and demographics to determine the city’s parks needs that could be met at the east park location.

Elected city officials, city staff, members of the east park development committee and Franklin County youth sports leaders submitted requests to SWT Design of what they would like to see included in the park.

The cost to construct the park is estimated at over $9 million, however, officials have said that figure is “inflated.”