City applies for park grant

Claremont will apply for a grant worth more than $130,000 to improve and expand the city's Francis Sigman Park.

The North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant will pay for up to $140,281 for improvements to the park, if the city's application is accepted.

Henry Helton, who is in charge of the Claremont's public relations, presented possible expansion and improvement ideas to City Council on Monday at its regularly scheduled meeting.

"We've got this facility," Helton said. "Let's use it to the fullest capacity."

A grant writer from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments is helping Claremont complete the grant.

Improvements to the park total $133,921 and include construction of permanent public bathrooms, three handicap parking spots and six new roofs on the baseball dugouts.

Helton said the bathroom construction is the city's first priority when it comes to improving Francis Sigman Park. Park attendees currently must use portable outdoor toilets during sport events.

Other improvements listed in the proposal are:

Fencing around the park's adult softball field, backstop and dugout: $30,000
Greenway walking trail with lighting: $15,000
Signs for park directions: $1,000
Parking lot upgrade: $5,000
Cement steps, sidewalks and handrails: $10,000
Bleachers for football and softball fields: $7,200
Benches for football and softball fields: $1,700
Three score tables: $1,300
Four scoreboards: $10,000

The proposal also includes more than $7,000 in contingency funds for the project.

The city held a public hearing Monday for residents to express their thoughts about the park's possible improvements.

John Jones, of Claremont, spoke on behalf of the Bunker Hill Optimist Club.

"We really are needing practice facilities," Jones said. "That place would really give us a good place to practice."

Jones noted that the city needs to take into account who will maintain the park, if and when park improvements are made.

Claremont Public Works Director Tom Winkler said the city will be responsible for some of the maintenance and up-keep to the park.

"Someone will have to maintain it," he said. "... But I don't see a big issue with it."

Other residents spoke favorably of park improvements at the public hearing, and no one expressed disapproval of the project.

Claremont Mayor pro Tem Timothy Lowrance commended Helton for his work to obtain the grant.

"Henry (Helton) has worked hard on getting the pricing together, so we hope we can do good by that," Lowrance said.

The grant application is due Jan. 31, and 75 percent of the funds will be allocated in May. The remaining funds will be distributed in June.

If Claremont is selected to receive the funding, implementation of the project is expected to start in October.

Once selected for funding, winners have three years to complete the improvements and expansions outlined in their project proposals.