Despite some opposition, the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission voted during a special meeting Friday to add colorful LED lights to the splash pad at Community Park.
The commission voted 7-2 to move forward with installing colorful LED lights to about 25-30 nozzles at the Community Park sprayground. Commissioners Lindsey Rowden and Bob Weber voted against the proposal, while commissioners Brad Bates, Bill Plank, Stu Murphy, Liz Minton, Denise Chapel, Chris Leuckel and Andre Grinston voted for it.
After watching a video of the city garden fountains in St. Louis, Minton said she thought Community Park, at 725 Marshall St. in Jefferson City, could be a destination.
"If you build it and people will come to it, and you feel the momentum we have with the (Myrtle Smith Livingston Park) tennis courts with pickleball over there and The Linc," she said. "I think it's going to be a big draw. And I know there's been a lot of conversations about people not coming to it, but I think that enhancing it in this manner will really make it a place people would want to come to."
Adding the LED lights may cost $50,000-$60,000, Parks Assistant Director JJ Gates said. Operational costs will also increase because the new water nozzles with the LED lights will be bigger and use more water.
Installing the lights may postpone the Community Park project's completion date, but Gates said he is unsure of how long.
Rowden said she did not think it would be "financially responsible" to purchase the lights and potentially delay construction.
In April, the commission approved a more than $1.46 million construction contract with Sircal Contracting for Community Park improvements, which includes the sprayground, new playground equipment, retaining walls, and stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, among other items.
Currently, the Community Park project is about $100,000 under budget, Gates said.
Weber said he was concerned the lights would not be highly visible in the community due to Community Park's location. He added the money could go toward other projects, such as improvements at Ellis-Porter Riverside and McClung parks.
Improvements at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, 300 Ellis-Porter Drive, could include a new 5,000-seat community amphitheater, more parking and upgraded ballfields. Improvements at McClung Park, 930 McClung Park Drive, could include indoor pavilion renovations, new outdoor patio, parking lot repairs and an extension of the outdoor play surface.
"It just seems to me like a lot of money, and we're already struggling to find money to do some things like the amphitheater," Weber said. "It is nice, I agree with that; it's very attractive. I just don't see it worth the value of the extra money and the delayed schedule."
While the commission wants to be frugal with taxpayers' money, Bates said, the LED lights could draw people to the impoverished area.
"To me, (the LED lights) could be utilized 12 months a year and could go on for 20, 30 years," he said. "When you look at it from that perspective, from my hindsight, it seems like it would be a pretty worthwhile investment."
The lights would not run 24/7, Gates said, adding they will normally be turned off during the day and in the winter. The lights will operate with the nozzles but can be separated during the offseason for special events, he added.
City staff plans to present a change order including the new lights and exact cost to the commission in August.
The commission may also vote in August to extend hours of operation at Community Park to 11 p.m., Gates said. Community Park currently closes at sunset.
There will still be standard security lighting at the park and in the parking lot, Gates said.
During its regularly scheduled meeting last week, the commission requested Leuckel speak with the Parks Foundation about funding the colorful LED lights.
The foundation "would be happy to add it to the list, but that would be more of a trickle effect than it would be a big chunk of money," Leuckel said Friday.
The commission listed Community Park as its top priority from the parks master plan, which outlines parks improvements for the next 20 years.