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Kid-designed playground to be installed at Redbank in South Portland

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Kid-designed playground to be installed at Redbank in South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — It's been years in the making, but the Redbank Village will finally get a new playground for neighborhood children.

The City Council on Monday approved $55,000 in federal grant funding for the new playground, which will be located next to the Redbank Community Center. The project will be funded through the city's Community Development Block Grant program, which directs federal grants to low-income neighborhoods.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the planning process for the playground was unique, since the components were chosen by the neighborhood children who would be using it, rather than city officials. 

"The adults had zero involvement other than designing it and getting the money," Gailey said.

Between 30 and 50 kids spent an hour and a half pouring over six posters of playground components at a Dec. 10 resource fair, Gailey said. The kids ranked their favorite pieces and the contractor, Joel St. Pierre of O'Brien & Sons, designed the playground according to those specifications.

"We had a ton of kids there," he said. "Hopefully, this brings ownership to the kids of the neighborhood."

Residents had complained about not having a centralized location for their kids to play since the Mary Marsh School was demolished in 2007 and the playground dismantled.

Councilor Jim Hughes complimented the design process, noting how it saved valuable staff time.

"Sluffing it off on the kids was a great idea," Hughes joked. "It was a lot of fun see the kids designing this."

Gailey said the city plans to have the new playground installed by Memorial Day.

Councilor Rosemarie DeAngelis said she hopes the new playground will be used not only by Redbank kids, but by other kids living in the Brickhill area.

"I hope it pulls the neighborhood more together," DeAngelis said.

In other business, the council unanimously approved changes to the city ordinance that outlines the responsibilities of the library director and the Library Advisory Board.

The changes give more authority to the director and limits the power of the board – changes Gailey said were needed to comply with state labor laws in light of the recent formation of the library worker's union.

The changes to the ordinance, originally drafted in 1969, were developed by a committee consisting of two LAB members, a councilor, a library staffer, a resident, the library director and city manager.

"We have come up with something that fits our particular circumstances and will hopefully streamline the process with the library board and make clear what their duties are," Mayor Tom Coward said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net