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story.lead_photo.caption Work has begun behind the Community Center on East Dunklin Street on the area that will be home to the Parks and Recreation splash park. Community Park is listed as the No. 1 priority in the parks master plan. It's expected to cost $1.46 million to make improvements in that area which include retaining walls, stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, installation of sprayground and new playground equipment, etc. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

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The Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission is considering pursuing a $7 million bonding plan to help pay for several improvements to the local parks system.

The Parks Commission could pursue $7 million-$8 million in bonds, which would require them to pay $500,000 annually in debt service, Parks Director Todd Spalding told the commission Tuesday.

The plan would help cover costs to make several improvements to Community, Ellis-Porter Riverside and McClung parks — but "not much else," Spalding said.

"So, some of the priorities that we want to get to right away, we will have to find other ways to do those or do smaller scales of them or wait until we have more history to show we can hit some of those numbers," he said.

The commission would have three years to complete projects it borrowed money for, Spalding said.

The commission originally had hoped to pursue $11 million in bonds to pay for projects in the parks master plan, but Spalding said Jefferson City Finance Director Margie Mueller recommended $7 million instead.

Newly elected commission President Chris Leuckel said the conservative bonding plan ensures the commission isn't "leaning too far over." If the commission shows it can handle its annual debt service payments, he added, the commission could consider pursuing more bonds.

The Parks Commission did not take formal action on the plan Tuesday, but Spalding said he would present more information at a later meeting.

Last month, the commission approved a $441,990 professional services contract with The Architect's Alliance, Inc. for improvements to McClung and Ellis-Porter Riverside parks.

Improvements at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park, 300 Ellis-Porter Drive, include a new 5,000-seat community amphitheater, more parking and upgraded ballfields, among other improvements. Improvements at McClung Park, 930 McClung Park Drive, include indoor pavilion renovations, new outdoor patio, parking lot repairs and an extension of the outdoor play surface.

In April, the commission approved a more than $1.46 million construction contract with Sircal Contracting for improvements at Community Park, 725 Marshall St. The improvements include a sprayground, playground equipment and structures, retaining walls, stormwater and sanitary sewer systems, installation of furnishings, paving and surfacing, among other items.

Community Park construction completion is estimated for December, Parks Assistant Director JJ Gates said Tuesday.

The commission debated Tuesday whether to add colored LED lighting to the splash park, which would cost $50,000 and push the estimated construction completion date off about six weeks, Gates said. The commission requested more information before moving forward with this feature.

Community Park was listed as the commission's its first priority from the parks master plan, while McClung and Ellis-Porter Riverside parks are its second and third priorities.

The master plan outlines parks improvements over the next two decades.