A group of local business owners and the town of Erie have reached an agreement in principle on a written contract regarding the project to bring in a synthetic ice rink, pickleball fields, musical swings, a new fountain with lighting and a other facilities at Griswold Park.
Erie City Council, at its regular Wednesday night meeting, will review the six-page improvement agreement for the park. City council must approve the deal before the project can proceed.
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The document is a memorandum of understanding between Erie’s Station Square Ltd., a non-profit organization created by companies considering funding for the project, and the city. The document sets out the mutually accepted expectations of all parties involved.
The agreement stipulates, among other things, that Station Square Ltd. is solely responsible for the cost of improvements to the park; that the group must take out civil liability insurance for the region; and that the city remains the owner of the property.
Griswold Park, which is owned by the city, is in the 100 block of West 14th Street. The project was announced by local businessman Pete Zaphiris, owner of Great Lakes Insurance Services Group LLC, in early June.
A company located near the park, Logistics Plus, has pledged $ 100,000 to the project and is asking other community businesses to contribute as well.
Improvements to the park would also include a playground with LED lighting and a statue of the legendary magician Harry Kellar, who was born in Erie in 1849 and was a friend and mentor of Harry Houdini.
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The proposed agreement between the city and Station Square Ltd., if approved by city council, is retroactive to July 1 and runs until June 30, 2024.
After that date, the agreement would be automatically renewed for a period of one year, unless terminated by either party. The memorandum of understanding does not impose a specific timetable for the achievement of the project objectives.
Details of the proposed deal include:
- The city retains ownership of Griswold Park and “all improvements will become the property of the city upon installation.”
- Station Square Ltd. Must obtain and maintain fleet / improvement related liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage, including general / excess liability insurance with a limit of at least $ 5 million. Station Square Ltd. must also provide the city with proof of adequate insurance coverage and notify city authorities within 30 days of any change / cancellation of coverage.
- Station Square Ltd. cannot modify or improve the park without the prior written consent of the city.
- The city retains control over the issuance of event permits at Griswold Park.
- Improvements made to the park by Station Square Ltd. “Will be carried out at the sole expense and expense” of the non-profit organization.
- Station Square Ltd. will follow “all tender procedures” required by the city for work in the park and be responsible for obtaining the necessary permits for this work.
- Improvements to the park must comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Renee Lamis, chief of staff to Mayor Joe Schember, said that while the Schember administration supports the continuation of the project by business owners, it is not a done deal and several aspects still need to be finalized before work can begin at the park.
Councilor David Brennan said he supported the new written agreement and the comprehensive park plan, calling the proposed improvements “good news for the neighborhood and town of Erie.”
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“I want to thank all of the businesses and individuals who plan to invest their funds and efforts in improving the park and the region,” said Brennan. “The proposed improvements will further improve the region and stimulate future investment. I fully support this agreement.
Zaphiris said he plans to cover much of the construction costs of the project and that the group hopes to get started as soon as possible.
The estimated cost of the project was not available.
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Lamis said city officials began talking to business owners in April about possible improvements. Zaphiris also discussed the project with the city council.
The last major upgrade to Griswold Park came in 2009, when the administration of then-mayor Joe Sinnott completed a $ 700,000 expansion to the park’s west.
These improvements included a fountain; cutting down some trees and planting new ones; wider sidewalks; new lighting; and decorative pillars and iron balustrades.
City council meets Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Bagnoni Council Chamber at City Hall, 626 State St. The meeting can also be viewed on the city’s YouTube page.