Federal stimulus boosts Richland recreation

Program will help agency stretch funds for park projects

The federal stimulus program should help the Richland County Recreation Commission start its construction projects quicker and stretch its $50 million bond issue further.

The commission voted Monday to issue the first $10 million of the bonds at an interest cost of 2.72 percent and to increase the next round of bond financing from $13 million to $27 million.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act encourages construction projects through Build America Bonds, which offer slightly reduced rates and quicker processing than standard bonds. That means less of the original $50 million will go to pay interest and more will go to pay for park projects.

Getting more of the bond money now, rather than waiting several years, also allows the agency to take advantage of a competitive construction market. With few other major projects being built, more contractors will bid on the recreation projects, and costs likely will be lower than originally projected.

Robbie Brax, who's coordinating the projects as a manager for M.B. Kahn Construction, expects construction could begin on the first wave of projects in February. Those 37 projects include a new Crossroads Park in eastern Richland County, a new pro shop at the Richland County Tennis Center and major upgrades to Bluff Road, Polo Road, St. Andrews and Caughman Road parks.

The schedule calls for those projects to be completed by February 2012. A second round of projects should start before the first round is finished.