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Gaynor Park

Children enjoy the upgrades to Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

More than a dozen excited children climbed over a Nesconset playground Monday afternoon, as families took in the park’s first upgrade in more than two decades.

Town of Smithtown officials celebrated the completion of $1.3 million in upgrades to three town-owned parks this week, which also came in approximately $62,000 under budget. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconest July 9, followed by a celebration for Gaynor and Veterans
Memorial parks in St. James held July 10.

“There is no more important mission we can do than to build parks like this for the children who are growing up here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It’s been a long time coming.” 

Town of Smithtown officials celebrate the opening of Joseph Andreoli Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Joseph Andreoli Park, commonly referred to as Gibbs Pond park, received two new playgrounds. For older children, there are five different slides, several climbing obstacles and a swing set. A second area for younger children ages 2 to 5 consists of several tiny houses they go inside with interactive features.

“It’s visually appealing,” Shannon Cooley,  a Nesconset resident, said as she watched her 3-year-old daughter play. “It’s colorful, not faded, and everything feels inviting and welcoming.” 

Cooley said her favorite part of the renovations are the separate play areas created for young children and the new Classic Turf, a synthetic grasslike “shag rug” that replaced the former wood chips.

Both Cooley and Nesconset resident Morgan Tavis said they appreciated the modern, clean look, but if they had one criticism of the design, it would be a lack of shaded areas. “A shaded area for respite would make this into a full day activity,” Tavis said.

Wehrheim said there will be further improvements made at the Gibbs Pond park. Boy Scout Troop 566 has offered to build benches that will be installed by the town, according to the supervisor, and renovations to
make the bathrooms handicapped accessible are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. Shaded canopies will be installed over the playground’s slides, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo, to prevent them from becoming heated and potentially burning children.

“This is the first of many,” Wehrheim said, indicating more park renovations are in the works for 2019. “We made a commitment when we got elected, one of those commitments was to renovate and bring our parks into the future so I am very pleased and honored this afternoon to tell you we have kept that campaign promise.”

Joseph Andreoli Park, off Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset, now has a separate playground for children ages 2 to 5. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Both Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James have received similar upgrades, according to Smithtown Parks Maintenance Director Joseph Arico. Gaynor Park has received a similar new playground set and field upgrades. The existing tennis courts at Gaynor were fully resurfaced and the basketball court was enlarged from a half court to full regulation size. 

Veterans Memorial Park, located off Moriches Road, had more recently received upgrades to its sports fields. Roughly $300,000 was spent to install a new playground set along with a new artificial grass surface and a resurfacing of the water park playground to improve safety, according to Arico.

Councilman Tom Lohmann (R), who served as the town board’s liaison to the parks department on the project, voiced his approval of the final product. 

“We are putting money back where it belongs in our parks, beaches and infrastructure so that we, the residents, have a nice place to bring our children, grandchildren and enjoy this beautiful town,”
Lohmann said.

A new playground is being installed at Gaynor Park in St. James. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown officials will pay out more than $13,000 in past-due overtime pay and offer training to settle labor disputes involving more than 25 town employees.

The Smithtown Town Board approved settlements at the May 8 town board meeting for two labor grievances with unionized town park employees related to overtime pay and hiring a third-party contractor installing its new playgrounds.

Currently, Gibbs Pond Park in Nesconset, along with Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James are receiving long-awaited renovations including the installation of new playground equipment. When the town bought the equipment in September 2017, it also hired the installation services of Minnesota-based Landscape Structures Inc. The members of Civil Service Employees Association local union Chapter 852 brought the labor grievance to the town board claiming that said town employees were not notified of the hiring of the third-party company and having an outside company install the playground equipment was a violation of the workers’ collective bargaining rights.

Despite repeated attempts, a representative from the union chapter could not be contacted by press time.

 [I]f somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.
– Ed Wehrheim

Some of the playground work included groundwork and removal of old playground equipment. The town paid Landscape Structures $144,000 for the installation of the Gibbs Pond equipment, $87,050 for Gaynor Park and $94,000 for Veterans Memorial Park for a total of more than $325,000.

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that the notification of hiring the third-party installer was run through the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings & Grounds.

“For the type of playground that was purchased, it requires a certified installer from the company,” he said.

Town officials said that the playground equipment required workers who had Certified Playground Safety Inspector licenses, which are the National Recreation and Park Association produced certifications giving lessons on playground safety issues such as hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods, according to NRPA’s website.

“We put that out to bid to furnish and install that equipment,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “The reason we did that is federal standards have changed in what we are required to do for liability purposes in playgrounds. In this case, when [the third party] installs, the equipment is warranteed. So, if somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.”

Under the settlement, Smithtown officials agreed with the union that, starting in 2019, the town will provide an opportunity for any town employee who wishes to get licensed to take the necessary classes and become certified. Wehrheim said the town will cover for any associated expenses.

Officials also agreed that in the future the town discuss whether any new playground equipment or playground maintenance will be done by town employees or a third-party directly with the chapter president or other chapter officers.

The town also reached an agreement with parks employees on overtime equalization.

In 2017, unionized workers brought to the attention of the town board, problems with the equalization of overtime pay of parks department employees in 2016. Under current agreement, member employees are allowed an overtime equalization equal to 80 percent of the employee who received the highest overtime pay. Jakubowski said that a mistake in the parks department meant several employees were not given those funds.

The town will pay out the sum total of $13,775 divided among 25 employees who did not receive their proper overtime wages.

Surplus funds to be used to redesign Bellemeade Ave parking lot

A new playground is being installed at Gaynor Park in St. James. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A trio of Smithtown parks are finally getting their day in the sun as upgrades are underway for the first time in two decades.

Joseph Arico, Smithtown’s park maintenance director, said town employees are working to finish updates already underway to Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset, and Gaynor and Veterans Memorial parks in St. James before schools let out for the summer. The capital projects are expected to come in at or below the approximately $1 million budgeted, according to Arico, and the leftover funds will go toward town’s redesign of the Bellemeade Avenue municipal parking lot.

“It has been a long time in coming,” he said. “I’m going to say that Gibbs Pond park, the last time work was done there was probably at least 15 to 20 years ago at the minimum.”

It has been a long time in coming.”
— Joseph Arico

Joseph Andreoli Park, commonly referred to as Gibbs Pond park, will be receiving a completely new playground set including one specifically made for younger children. The old rubber matting which covered the play space is being stripped and replaced with Classic Turf, which Arico said looks more like a synthetic grass “shag rug” than traditional artificial turf.

“When [the matting] gets old and you have to repair it, it never looks the same,” the parks director said. “There were patch marks all over the place, you could see the old and the new.

He said his hope is the new Classic Turf will be easier for town employees to fix and maintain in the future. Work at Gibbs Pond is about 80 percent complete, according to Arico, and is anticipated to be finished by mid-May.

In St. James, the construction vehicles sitting in Gaynor Park’s parking lot serve as a clear sign to residents of the nearly $500,000 in upgrades that are underway. The town’s two existing tennis courts are being resurfaced while the adjacent basketball court is getting enlarged from half court to full regulation size. A new playground was in the process of being installed April 20, which must be finished before the grass turf and brickwork can be done. Arico said he hopes construction will wrap up by the end of May.

“We should be close, but it’s hard to say based on how the weather goes from here forward,” he said.

If we are going to make these capital investments, we have to make sure we do it the right way to get the most longevity out of our investments.”
– Tom Lohmann

The town has set aside nearly $310,000 to improve Veterans Memorial Park off Moriches Road in St. James. While the park received updates to its fields recently, it will also be getting a new playground set and artificial grass surface, according to Arico. Construction will be starting shortly, with the aim of finishing by June.

“The water park playground will also be resurfaced so kids don’t get scraped-up knees,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Once all three projects are completed, Arico said there should be several thousand dollars left over to go toward the town’s other capital projects including the redesign of Bellemeade Avenue municipal parking lot off Smithtown’s Main Street. Originally slated only for resurfacing, Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) said a quick review of the lot showed drainage improvements and street lighting were needed.

“If we are going to make these capital investments, we have to make sure we do it the right way to get the most longevity out of our investments,” Lohmann said.

Arico and the councilman have pulled several town departments together to engineer plans to redesign the town-owned land to improve conditions and reconfigure the layout of spaces, hopefully, gaining a few.

“I think once it’s said and done, we will have a lot of people taking advantage of the lot,” Lohmann said.

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