The board of aldermen Monday committed $500,000 in next year’s budget for the Veterans Memorial Park.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the funds will come out of existing cash balances and will be used for design fees to begin the process of building the park.
The budget must be finalized before the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Rost added that actual construction may not begin for about two years.
City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann explained that he is using software in which he can input the amenities at the park, including structures, to determine cost estimates.
The next step would be to hire a design consultant, he added.
“There will be a lot of decision making to be made before the final design,” said Zimmermann. “We’re going to modify the cost up and down.”
However, the number of sports fields and types of fields may not change at all.
“We are going to stay as close to the master plan as we can,” he said.
Mayor Mike Livengood said aldermen agreed to pursue the Veterans Memorial Park project with city general funds after the tax initiative for the park failed twice.
“If we approve this budget, that means its a go with the project,” he said.
He explained that initially the project was estimated to cost $9 million.
“We felt that was high,” Livengood said. “We feel like we can build it for $6.5 million.” Rost added that it may be less than that estimate.
Once the cost estimate is determined, officials expect to fund the project through Certificates of Participation (COPs).
“We’ll only borrow enough to fill the gap between our existing funds and the cost of the project,” said Rost.
Alderman Dustin Bailey noted that the city still should pursue grants, something that was “advertised” to voters when the sales tax was sought.
“Anything we can do to bring that cost down,” he said.
Rost said there may not be many grants available other than a federal soil and water conservation grant.
Phase 1 of the park project consisted of excavation and mass grading for two soccer fields, one football field, five baseball/softball fields, two ponds and various support infrastructure.
When completed the park will be a full-service facility with concession stands, bleachers, restrooms, and other amenities, which will support sporting events, including walking trails, playgrounds, wetlands and other passive park features.
There is about 100,000 cubic yards of earthwork, and the grading plan included 24-foot-wide roads.
SWT Design of St. Louis provided the original conceptual plan and master planning for this project.
The park was planned to meet the growing needs of youth sports leagues in the Union area.
In the plans are 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.
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.