The Mohr Community Center playground is getting new equipment, a new rubberized surface to replace wood chips, new fencing, and drainage improvements. 

The village council voted unanimously to go out to bid on the project during its March 27 meeting. The bid doesn’t include the purchase of the new playground equipment itself – that is something the village is buying separately – but the winning bidder will be required to remove the old playground equipment and install the new paly structures. The renderings included in the meeting packet show a larger, more elaborate structure than what’s currently there, with four slides and multiple features for kids to swing from and climb. 

The playground is located at the southwest side of the community center, atop of the village’s water reservoirs. Improving the drainage and upgrading the playground has been a long-term priority for Mayor Rory Hoskins. 

Village Administrator Moses Amidei previously told the Review that Forest Park was interested in putting in a rubberized surface, which would be easier to maintain and make it more accessible to kids with mobility issues. They also wanted to replace the chainlink fence with something more solid to provide better separation from the nearby CSX Transportation freight railroad line and the Public Works property to the west. The village was also interested in removing a light pole – a holdover from when the space was used as a parking lot.

On Feb. 27, the village council authorized Christopher Burke Engineering, Forest Park’s engineering and project planning contractor, to develop specific parameters for what those improvements would look like. 

During the March 27 meeting, Amidei told the council that several companies submitted proposals, and they went with the option the community center staff preferred — a proposal from Downers Grove-based Play Illinois Park & Playground Solutions because. The costs are capped at $40,000 – below the threshold for village council approval requirement – but the village won’t order the equipment until the council selects a bidder for the rest of the project.

Burke previously estimated that the remaining parts of the project would cost $150,000, and Amidei proposed using American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover that. However, he told the council that, based on its recent experience in Forest Park and other municipalities it works for, the firm revised its estimates up to at least $250,000. 

Amidei said that, if the bids are “significantly” over the original estimate, Forest Park would look into applying for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant or Park and Recreational Facilities Construction Program (PARC) grants. According to the IDNR website, the PARC grant program is currently inactive. OSLAD grants can be used to, among other things, redevelop public land, with IDNR funding half of the project or $60,000, whichever is smaller. 

Commissioner of Public Property Jessica Voogd, those areas of oversight includes the community center, asked Amidei to elaborate on the reasons behind the estimate increases. He replied that inflation was a factor, and so was the fact that preparing the bid documents led Burke to take a much more detailed look at all the expenses that would go into a project like this. 

“So, when, obviously, you put more thought into it, have an engineer prepare specifications, use these specifications on the bids [for other projects] that recently came out, that’s why the cost is more money versus asking a playground company — hey, this is what I’m thinking, give me a quote for that,” he said.