Committee votes to address 8 deteriorating playgrounds

Posted 12/6/23

Cranston schools will soon have modern, accessible playgrounds if the City Council has anything to say about it.

On Monday  the Council Finance Committee approved a resolution co-sponsored …

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Committee votes to address 8 deteriorating playgrounds


Cranston schools will soon have modern, accessible playgrounds if the City Council has anything to say about it.

On Monday  the Council Finance Committee approved a resolution co-sponsored by City Council Vice President Lammis J. Vargas and Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli, to use  $307,000 in   American Rescue Plan Act funds to update, repair, and replace playgrounds in desperate need of renovation. The resolution requires one more vote at the full City Council meeting to take place on December 18, but with every member of the Council eventually co-sponsoring it, its final adoption seems all but certain.  The city received $42.6 million in ARPA funds.

Funds would be split between eight playgrounds especially in need of update according to a recent survey done by the parks and recreation department, with the largest portion going to the playground at Edgewood-Highland Elementary, which has been closed since September due to its advanced state of disrepair. Playgrounds in Cranston, even those at Cranston schools are the responsibility of the city parks and recreation department.

The resolution has largely been the project of Council Vice-President Lammis J. Vargas, councilwoman for Ward 1, which contains Edgewood-Highland Elementary. For over a year and a half, Vargas has raised the issue of the city’s playgrounds before City Council.

“It wasn’t until I ended up displaying and providing pictures of what our playground at Edgewood Highland looked like, that it seemed like that really caught the attention of many to finally have this conversation,” she said at the meeting of the finance committee.

After Edgewood-Highlands playground was shut down, Vargas met with Mayor Kenneth  Hopkins and members of his administration, members of the Edgewood-Highlands PTO, members of the parks and rec department, and Council members to discuss what could be done to get the playground running again, and how to prevent other playgrounds from ending up in the same boat.

It was from these initial meetings that the first of three bills were drafted. Sponsored by Mayor Hopkins, an ordinance calling for $600,000 to use in ARPA funds and distributed evenly across the six wards of Cranston for renovations of the city’s playgrounds was put before the City Council. The ordinance was continued for  further revising. This ordinance would later be withdrawn at the December finance committee meeting in preference of Councilwomen Vargas’ and Renzulli’s resolution for $307,000.

During this time, parks and rec conducted a survey of 17 playgrounds. They provided the Council with a list of  playgrounds, rating them according to their degree of safety, an A being safe, a B meaning a possible safety concern, and SC for immediate safety concerns. From there, 8 playgrounds were selected for their proximity to schools and categorization and an estimate for the cost of renovation was drawn up. That data became the foundation of the resolution which eventually passed in the finance committee. Distributing funds based on need was determined to be more equitable and cost conscious than distributing funds equally across the wards, where each ward may acquire significantly more or significantly less than is needed.

The resolution, which was originally for $242,000, also received an amendment granting an additional $65,000 to be distributed among the playgrounds. Several community members, mostly parents from Edgewood-Highland, also were in attendance and voiced their support of the resolution. Chief of staff for Mayor Hopkins Anthony Moretti also voiced the administration’s total and happy support of the resolution. Members of the school committee also voiced their support, with committee members Anthony Melillo and Frank Ritz writing a letter to the city council in advance of the meeting urging them to pass it.

The resolution will now come before the City Council. If it passes, a bidding process will begin for work on the playgrounds. Council Vice-President Vargas urged the administration to move quickly, to which Chief of Staff Moretti responded in the affirmative.

The response to the passing of this bill through the committee was enthusiastic, but the conversation ended with a touch of frustration as well. With more foresight by city government, the city’s playgrounds may not have ever gotten into the shape they’re currently in, not requiring so much federal funding to fix. Councilman Robert Ferri spoke on this, and his sentiment was later shared by Council President Jessica Marino. “We’re using ARPA money to fix playgrounds when we have a $30 million budget so just something doesn’t feel right… The thing we really need to be thinking is ‘how did we get here?’

schools, playgrounds, vote


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