Cost, quality questions dog new Gillespie Park playground

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SARASOTA, FLA. -- James Caudell loves living in the Gillespie Park Neighborhood mainly because he is right across the street from Gillespie Park.

"And that was important to me. I have a three-year-old son; that something close by was a reason why we chose the house close to a public park, close to the city," he says.

The city of Sarasota recently upgraded the nearly 20-year-old playground.

"The total project cost was $90,000," said Todd Kucharski, Sarasota Public Works general manager.

But Caudell said he has already noticed problems with the brand new playground.

"The third day I think it was open, I went and I immediately noticed missing bolts on some of the equipment, things to me that just didn't appear right," Caudell says.

Kucharski says his staff taped off the affected equipment and contacted playground equipment installer to make the repairs under warranty.

"We are also going to make sure and do our due diligence at looking in with the vendor to have them provide us with potential maintenance package and written inspection for that," he says.

Caudell says a $90,000 price tag seems rather high for only four pieces of new equipment, but Kucharski tells ABC 7 it cost nearly $23,000 to remove the old rubberized playground surface and dispose of the old equipment. He also points out the entire playground surface is up to code and covered in mulch.

"Mulch -- and not a lot of people probably know this -- is installed to about 18 inches in some areas, and that is specifically for the drop zone. This specific mulch is engineered specifically for playgrounds. It is not something you go and put out in your back yard," Kucharski says.

"I think it should have been maybe evaluated more if you are spending that kind of money on labor to tear everything out and for mulch, I think just an open space sodded would have been better," Caudell says.

Kucharski says a toddler swing  that was included in the original project plans will be installed any time now. He also says Public Works and the Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association are looking for grants to fund additional equipment in the playground.