Commissioners to vote on controversial Evans playground for special needs children

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email

News 12 at First at Five / Tuesday, June 5, 2012

EVANS, Ga. -- On Tuesday night, Columbia County commissioners are expected to vote on a new playground behind the library in Evans.

The playground would be for children with special needs.

The project looked to have everyone's support, but this week, a handful of neighbors just feet away from the proposed playground are speaking up.

They say it's too close for comfort and they're looking for a compromise.

Tony Temples is in charge of facility maintenance for Columbia County. He's also been the push behind a new playground in Evans for children with special needs. His 7-year-old granddaughter, Nevaeh, is autistic.

"With having a special needs granddaughter, it was a passion for me. There's a need for it in Columbia County," Temples said.

Some current playgrounds in Evans have small areas for children with special needs, but the proposed one would be fully functional for children with all disabilities.

"We want to make sure that everyone is included. We don't wanna have a family that might have one special needs child and one able child and they bring their able child out, and their special needs child has to sit and watch," said Matt Schlachter, the Columbia County Director of Construction and Maintenance.

"Since there is going to be a rubberized surface, it can accommodate wheelchairs or walkers," explained Heloise Salter, whose son has cerebral palsy.

But commissioners still have to approve $40,000 in sales tax funds for the project.

"We have gathered up our info and have our ideas together and I've gone to commissioners and asked for funding and hopefully, tonight we get it approved," Schlachter said.

But not everyone is so optimistic. Several neighbors, like Ashley Sweet, plan to speak out against the playground that will be built just past their fence.

"You don't want someone peering into your backyard. At times, especially in the summer when the splash pad is on, it can be very excruciatingly loud," she said.

But Sweet is hoping for a compromise and maybe even a new location for the playground.

"I myself actually have a disability, and I understand, I live with it every day. I know how hard it is and you want certain things to accommodate what you need. I hope that we can come to a compromise so that we all have peace and happiness," she said.

"If it were their child that were not able to play alongside their peers, I think they would have a different point of view," Salter said.

Half of the $80,000 new playground will be paid for with savings from under budget projects in the Construction and Maintenance Department. We expect about eight people to be at the meeting on behalf of the Northwood Neighborhood.


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