Downtown Splash? Maybe Not

Last month’s vote to construct a $300,000 splash pad and a $50,000 permanent stage at Town Hall in downtown Leesburg could soon be reversed.

Councilman Tom Dunn had asked for an item to be placed on the council’s Dec. 8 agenda to rescind a Nov. 10 vote approving funding for the project. Although Dunn was in the majority on that 5-2 vote, he said Monday the items did not have the adequate vetting and there were other capital projects that should be considered for the money.

The items came before the council for consideration after the Hope Parkway extension project, which opened last week, came in hundreds of thousands of dollars under budget. The two projects would be paid for with those savings. The permanent stage project was a suggestion put forward by the town staff, along with other options for the council to consider.

Councilman David Butler introduced the idea of the splash pad, an interactive water feature for children, as a project.

While the motion to rescind the vote on the projects was put on the council’s agenda last week at Dunn’s request, the councilman asked Town Manager Kaj Dentler to remove the item during Monday’s bimonthly work session.

When reached by phone earlier in the day, Dunn explained his reasoning for reconsidering the projects.

“These are really [Capital Improvements Program] projects that should have gone through the proper vetting rather than just ‘hey, we’ve got some money let’s spend it.’ There are other CIP projects that have been out there longer that deserved more attention,” he said.

Dunn said he was not as concerned about the permanent stage project – which is envisioned to host the Acoustic on the Green summer concert series, as well as other town events – as he was about the splash pad. As currently envisioned, the splash pad would be located at Mervin Jackson Park on Loudoun Street. Dunn questioned whether an interactive water feature would fit in with the historic nature of the downtown area.

During Monday’s work session, the councilman requested that the motion be removed from Tuesday night’s agenda and instead be placed on the agenda for the council’s first meeting in January. That meeting will likely involve only six sitting council members, as Mayor Kristen Umstattd will have begun her four-year term as Leesburg District supervisor. The council is expected to discuss the process for appointing a new mayor at its Jan. 11 work session but likely will not have made an appointment in time for its first regular session meeting the following night when Dunn’s motion is expected to be considered.

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