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City backs away from county-owned tot lot
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A childs playground at the old Memorial Hospital will stay closed now that the City Council refused to upgrade its safety features. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

The children's playground, on the grounds of the former Memorial hospital site where the county operates a behavioral health program, will continue to be closed off for use.

The city of Ceres is responsible for the playground through an agreement with the county. The lot is outside of the Stanislaus Behavioral Health Hospital on Memorial Drive.

The matter came up during an agenda item requesting $45,704 to upgrade playground equipment in seven city-owned parks to meet state standards for children safety. An additional $9,050 was needed to replace the equipment in the county-owned lot at the hospital.

"Is it normal for us to pick up the cost of upgrading the safety equipment for one of their parks?" asked Mayor Chris Vierra.

Deputy City Manager/City Engineer Toby Wells said the council - acting as the Ceres Redevelopment Agency - agreed to take control of the county park in 2001. The agreement was due to the "need in that for some recreational activities and facilities so this body agreed to spend some redevelopment agency funds to install the playground equipment on the county's property under a lease agreement. The lease agreement indicated that we would be responsible for the maintenance of those equipments for the duration of the agreement, which is 15 years. So there's another two years left."

Wells added: "for us to hold our end of the bargain we need to maintain that equipment."

Vierra asked what would happen to the tot lot if the city refused to make the equipment safer, to which Wells said the lot, already closed for a year, would stay closed for another two.

The lot has been closed by a low fence for about a year, said Wells, because of concerns that the playground equipment may be unsafe. Wells said it's been easy for some to jump the fence but said "the county is concerned about that liability as well as it has been closed until improvements can be made."

Councilman Mike Kline motioned to include the tot lot in the upgrades but it died when Vierra and Councilmembers Ken Lane and Linda Ryno each voted "no." Lane then motioned to "eliminate that park and moving all the others forward." His motion passed 4-1 with Vice Mayor Bret Durossette voting "no" since he wanted the tot lot included.

The $45,704 order with Miracle Recreation Equipment Company of Carmel Valley will include replacing pits filled with sand with rubber surfacing and new structures. Parks affected are Berry Grove, Independence, Persephone, Redwood, Riverview, Roeding Heights and Smyrna.