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State gives OK for Middletown to use $423,496 toward Kids Kastle replacement

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/6/19

The state has approved a request from Middletown to use more than $400,000 in former grant funds to help pay for building a new playground in Hoffer Park to replace Kids Kastle.

Between that and …

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State gives OK for Middletown to use $423,496 toward Kids Kastle replacement

Posted

The state has approved a request from Middletown to use more than $400,000 in former grant funds to help pay for construction of a new playground in Hoffer Park to replace Kids Kastle.

Between that and donations from local nonprofit groups, the borough is assured of having in hand close to half the $924,205 estimated cost of the new playground, to be known as Little Middletown, according to information Mayor James H. Curry III presented to borough council June 4.

Curry said he received a letter from Mandy Book, director of the Center of Community Enhancement for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, approving the borough’s request to re-allocate $423,496 towards the playground.

The money comes from a $436,000 grant the borough received years ago to build Woodlayne Court apartments on Wilson Street.

The developer repaid the grant to the borough in 2013. The money has been sitting in a borough account, as the borough could not apply the cash toward another purpose without DCED approval.

The borough also applied to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for a $462,102.50 grant for the playground.

DCNR requires the borough put up the same amount of money to “match” the DCNR grant. Non-cash in-kind contributions also can be used to help meet this local matching requirement.

The former grant money will cover most of the local match, now that DCED approval has been received.

Curry reported that local nonprofits are stepping up to cover the remaining local match requirement, so that borough taxpayers don’t have to.

VFW Post 1620 has donated $5,000 toward Little Middletown, Curry told council.

That’s the first of several checks the post has pledged toward the playground — for a total of $25,000, the mayor added. He thanked the VFW “for their very large hearts in coming forward to help this community.”

The VFW pledge comes on top of a $5,000 donation the borough received from Kiwanis Club of Middletown.

The borough also had another $3,810.45 in hand, including proceeds from selling engraved wood blocks from the original Kids Kastle, Middletown Finance Director Kevin Zartman told the Press & Journal in March.

The mayor also noted the $2,000 donation in July 2018 from Jason Kreider, whose mother Kathleen Devonshire, formerly Kathleen Brant, helped lead the grassroots effort to build Kids Kastle in 1992.

Kids Kastle opened in 1993 but was closed by the borough in June 2018, after the borough received a report from consultants detailing safety issues and because the playground no longer met government handicapped accessibility standards.

Kids Kastle was at the end of its useful life of 25 years, Middletown Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach said at the time.

Curry on June 4 noted that with the DCED approval and the local contributions, “we are two out of three so far” as for the strategy of paying for the new playground without relying on local tax dollars.

“It is good news, for once,” he said.

The borough won’t know about the DCNR grant until October or November, when the agency announces  awards.

If the borough gets the DCNR grant, DCNR has said the borough can begin spending the grant money on the new playground after Jan. 1, 2020, when a contract between the borough and the state is put in place.

The project would have to go out for competitive bidding, meaning a likely spring construction start for Little Middletown.

If the borough doesn’t get the DCNR grant, “we will try to come up with other options and see what we can do,” Curry told council. “Even under the worst-case scenario, we would be spending what we would have had to spend on a noncustomized structure to replace what is there.”

Curry has pledged Middletown will have a playground unlike “any other playground in the world,” the mayor said in October when presenting designs for Little Middletown that were drawn up for the borough by MRC Recreation, a company based in New Jersey and California.

The design includes multiple features making the playground unique to Middletown, including a Nittany Lion to represent Penn State Harrisburg, cooling towers to represent Three Mile Island, an air traffic control tower representing Harrisburg International Airport, and other items to represent the Middletown Volunteer Fire Company and Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad.