By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
A plan from the Public Works Department to repair a custom playground slide at Bluebird Park raised eyebrows at last week’s City Council meeting, when staffers shared it would cost $47,000 to reopen it to Laguna Beach families.
The unique slide snakes down the side of a concrete slope below Bluebird Park’s parking lot. Over time, the bottom quarter of the slide cracked, and it was closed so it did not become a hazard to playing children, said Dale Schuck, deputy director of public works.
“The problem is that this is not an off-the-shelf item,” Schuck said. “It almost has to be designed and built to match the existing grade.”
Laguna Beach resident Michael Morris unsuccessfully asked that the City Council reconsider spending tens of thousands of dollars to repair the slide when there are already seven other slides at the park for children to play on.
“There are so many slides that the kids are spoiled for choice,” Morris said. “When I was growing up the park nearest my house had one metal slide.”
Morris said the expensive repair job reflects what he sees as a pattern of overspending at city hall, especially when contracts aren’t put out to bid. In the case of the Bluebird Park slide, Coast Recreation was identified as the sole source for the $8,523 replacement slide because there are a limited number of manufacturers. Tot Lot Pros will receive $38,500 to demolish the existing slide and concrete wall, adjust the hillside for the replacement slide, and install a new resilient surface that’s safe for users.
Ann Christoph, a former Laguna Beach mayor, said she was closely involved in the design of the park and agreed that it should be repaired. However, she argued that the city staff should try to replace just the broken section instead of the entire slide to save money.
Schuck said the repair was complicated by the fact the vendor that sold the slide to Laguna Beach went out of business, so there were no spare parts available. He added that any pre-made slide wouldn’t work because the existing slide is cast into the hillside and concrete around it will need to be removed.
Ultimately, the City Council unanimously agreed to fund the slide repairs despite Morris’ concerns about its cost. Councilman Steve Dicterow said he was confident that city staffers had thoroughly examined solutions to fix the slide, which was part of the park’s design vetted by the City Council after much discussion and public input.
“I don’t think every time something breaks we should be redesigning the entire park,” he said. “If you want to consider a whole redesign, we could consider that, but if something is broke, it should be fixed because that’s what was agreed on.”