Fleischmanns park clean-up on hold pending funding

By Jay Braman Jr.
A lot can happen in a year.
Or not.

Sometimes fate can step in and even set things in backwards motion. Such is the case with the Fleischmanns Village Park.

Things were very different just one year ago at the village’s crown jewel, located along Wagner Avenue. Enthusiasm was high among residents as a trio of vintage baseball teams attempted to play the longest continuous baseball marathon ever played and collected pledges for every hour played.

For a solid 48 hours the sights and sounds of America’s favorite pastime filled the park in this little village. As a result $10,000 was raised.

Still raising funds
They played through rain. They played through darkness. They played in mud. And while they fell just one hour short of breaking the world record for longest continuous play, all who participated feel it was a successful mission.

Fleischmanns wanted to install a playground that is handicapped accessible, and has been given a $125,000 grant to do so. The $10,000 raised on Memorial Day weekend 2011 were to be used as matching funds.

But on Memorial Day weekend 2012 it was a very different story. There were no ball players anywhere near the park, and picturing a new playground there requires a heightened imagination to say the least.

Of course, the park was seriously damaged at the end of August, thanks to Hurricane Irene.

Mayor explains
Repairs have not begun, and in an open letter to the public distributed before Memorial Day, Village Mayor Todd Pascarella explained why.

“We are currently still in negotiation with FEMA as to the total amount of compensation the village will receive for what was lost in the park, including items such as the stone wall along the stream, the playground, tennis courts, concession stand, etc,” he explained.

“Until that is finalized in the coming months, only pre-construction preparation work can actually take place. The initial push will be to re-grade and seed the field, begin building the playground, build a new kitchen/bathroom facility, and restore the tennis courts,” the mayor added.

The goal, according to Pascarella, is to have the park open for use in time for the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the village in 2013, but notes that the reconstruction work will continue for several years before the whole plan is implemented.

The good news now is that the state will be picking up the entire 25 percent match to FEMA’s 75 percent reimbursement so that there will be no local share of the finacial burden of rebuilding.

“What that means is that we are about to start receiving full payment for the “small projects” (which are valued at $63,000 or less) and we will have guarantees in hand for 100 percent reimbursement on the large projects, including the park reconstruction,” Pascarella wrote.
But since these funds, $1.5 million worth, will be paid on a reimbursement basis, the village will need to sell a one-year bond to finance the construction work.Pascarella thanked two village residents for helping move things along.

Great assistance
“Without the dedication of Larry Reilly and Ben Fenton seeing the process through for the village and dealing with every tedious detail FEMA requires we would probably be receiving substantially less than we are. We truly owe them both our gratitude for helping put us in the best position possible to successfully rebuild.”

Peg Ellsworth of the MARK Project, which is involved in the reconstruction planning, said Tuesday that there is no timeline yet for when work would begin. She said she hoped the grading and seeding of the park would occur “sooner rather than later,” but added that details about the financing still need to ironed out.

She said it would be irresponsible to begin the work beforehand, and urged the people of Fleischmanns to “take a big deep breath” and trust that things are moving as quickly as possible.