FARMINGTON — The Farmington Rotary Club is proposing a musical playground at the Walton’s Mill Park for the club’s centennial celebration in 2025. The club has a long history of investing in area youths and this project would further that mission, club members shared during the Farmington select board meeting on Tuesday, June 28.
Musical instruments invite creative play and help foster common ground between youths with different abilities. Athletic skills aren’t necessary and there is no competition involved. Because of how the instruments are designed and maintained, they are in tune and invite a multi-sensory experience.
The instruments, such as a chime wall, drums, and a xylophone, are made in Maine from recycled materials. They are designed for outdoor usage. The club worked with Parks and Recreation Director Matt Foster to brainstorm a location suitable for such a proposal, and Walton’s Mill Pond Park was the logical choice.
Foster explained that there’s an “ecosystem” of sorts with town parks, so different parks can support different needs in the community. Walton’s Mill Pond Park will retain a more natural, rustic atmosphere. The play spaces that are planned for the park include logs and earth mounds for kids to climb on and play around, as opposed to traditional playground equipment. The idea of musical play instruments fit well with that park, Foster said. Because the park doesn’t include sports or other types of activities, he felt that the risk of damage to the instruments would be lower than other parks in town.
The instruments would be located towards the back of the park, which would reduce disruptions for other park guests.
The select board agreed unanimously that it sounded like a great idea. Scott Landry said he felt it was the right thing at the right time in the right place.
Walton’s Mill Pond Park is currently undergoing renovations. The dam is being removed, invasive plant species are being addressed, and landscaping improvements are planned. The architect on the project will be involved with this new proposal, Foster said.
The Parks and Rec department requested board approval to enter into a contract with the Platform Group to design much-needed upgrades for the Dragon’s Nest Skateboard Park at Hippach Field. These designs would bring the park up to modern standards. The design phase will cost $8,000, which has been provided by the two-time Olympic champion in snowboard cross, Seth Wescott, and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, Foster said. Once designs, construction plans, and cost estimates have been provided in this phase, the department will be able to seek out grants and fundraising opportunities towards the costs of construction.
The board approved the request. Landry noted that they had reviewed two pretty big projects for local youths, which he felt was a good thing.
In other business, Police Chief Ken Charles reviewed bids for a 2022 Ford Interceptor cruiser for the department. He proposed going with the bid from Hight Ford in Skowhegan for $35,361; it wasn’t the lowest bid, but that cruiser came with some of the outfitting and equipment necessary to get the vehicle on the road. The low bid did not include that equipment, so overall the bid from Hight Ford would be slightly cheaper. The board approved the purchase.
Phil Hutchins, Public Works director, shared a brief year-end update for 2021. Last summer, work was done on the contracted road project on High Street. Hutchins reported that most of the work in the roadway, causing traffic disruptions, was complete. Sidewalks and lighting will need to be done, but necessary conduit was laid under the new hot top last summer so it wouldn’t need to be dug up again.
Currently, Public Works is fully staffed, for the first time since Hutchins began working in Farmington.
Leanne Dickey, the town clerk and treasurer, also shared a year-end report. When the previous treasurer left, Dickey picked up additional duties that thoroughly occupy her time. They will be sending out 30-day notices for overdue taxes soon, and they are researching outstanding checks to get those squared away one way or another. While general assistance was low last year compared to neighboring communities, Dickey is concerned things will be tighter this year with increased costs of fuel and gas.
The job posting for fire chief will close on June 30 and the hiring process will begin. Town Manager Christian Waller said they are hoping to complete the process by the beginning of August.