CRESTVIEW — A local family's offer to donate equipment for a skate park in Twin Hills Park still stands, but unless city officials act promptly, it's going to another community.
CRESTVIEW — A local family's offer to donate equipment for a skate park in Twin Hills Park still stands, but unless city officials act promptly, it's going to another community.Public Works Director Wayne Steele told the City Council in January that the Hemphill family offered the city $120,000 worth of "like new" skate park equipment, including lighting.
"We passed up on Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa because we wanted to put it local," James Hemphill said. "The only reason we bought into that was to put the park in Crestview, Florida."
The city's cost would be between the family's installation cost of $45,000 and $50,000, plus Public Works' expenses to install drainage and electrical services, Steele said.
According to October 2012 estimates received by Steele, a new, installed skate park would cost $240,000.
While the offer enthused council members, city attorney Jerry Miller cautioned officials to follow procurement procedures, including sending the project out for bid.
Following Miller's caution, no council action was taken on the offer.
"I've tried my best to make it happen, but Mr. Miller recommended against it," Steele said. "The objection was allowing them (the Hemphills) to install it without a bid."
Without direction from the council, Steele said his department can't prepare and issue bid proposals for the project.
City Councilman Tom Gordon, who supports the skate park, as well as a proposed linear park and dog park in the Community Redevelopment Agency district, said the city should pursue the Hemphill family's offer — if procurement rules are followed.
"The skate park is certainly viable, but we have to make sure we don't do anything that's not transparent," Gordon said. "It's the taxpayers' money .... We have to make sure we put everything out for bid and everything is done properly."
Steele simply phoning each council member to seek a consensus would start the process, Gordon said.
Meanwhile, the equipment is in storage at a monthly $3,000 fee, which, if the family's gift is accepted, would be added to the city's cost, Hemphill said.
A safer place to skate
Possibly losing a long-hoped-for skate park due to government procedures concerns skaters like Crestview High School senior Dylan McClard.
Pausing Thursday afternoon while skating along a residential street, Dylan said if installation is the only issue, "Honestly, I'd be willing to install it myself if it meant we got a skate park."
The closest skate parks are in Niceville and Pensacola, but for area skaters without driver's licenses or access to a car, the only local option is city streets and parking lots. Skaters are sometimes shooed off the latter.
"Skating around neighborhoods isn't bad, but it'd be a lot more fun and entertaining in a park," Dylan said. "It gives people like us a place to be out of the way; a place to do something we like and not get in trouble for it."
Hemphill said his family had kids like Dylan in mind when they acquired the park equipment for a gift to the city.
"They kept questioning our family and our motives," Hemphill said. "There's no better motive than trying to help the kids."
"Most of my friends would like to learn to skate," Dylan said. "I'm sure a park would give them the initiative to learn, but those of us who do skate, we'd be there! It's safer to skate in a park."
Email News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes, follow him on Twitter or call 850-682-6524.