Playground installation in Bentley delayed by COVID-19

By Jared Janzen

BENTLEY—Kids in Bentley will have to wait a little while longer before the new playground equipment is installed at Williams Park.

Installation had been scheduled to start Saturday, but the city council agreed during its Thursday night meeting to push this back at least a month. Several people were concerned that the plastic and metal equipment surfaces would transmit COVID-19 among kids, and they wanted to wait till the virus’s threat has diminished.

Police Chief James Welch noted that as of Thursday, Kansas had 168 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the youngest person being 7. He also cited a John Hopkins University study that the virus can live on plastic for up to 72 hours.

“None of us can go wipe that stuff off every day,” he said about the play equipment. “We just don’t have the time. Why are we going to take the risk? Let’s just wait a little bit to put it up.”

Welch also noted that in Eastborough, where he also works for the police, they have caution tape on play equipment but they still can’t keep kids off of it.

“It’s one of those things, if you build it, they’ll come,” Welch said. “If it’s not built, they’re not going to be there.”

Council member Reba Lee was reluctant to delay the installation, pointing out that it would be hard to reschedule a date that would work for the various contractors.

“I see your point, James, but I’m also working with five different schedules of five different people,” Lee said.

Council member James Roberts said the city hadn’t had a park for so long that waiting a couple extra months wouldn’t make much difference.

“I would say wait,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but with all the kids out of school, it’s just asking for something to happen.”

Council president Shannon Koehn agreed that having brand new equipment up would be too enticing for kids not to play on it.

“I know it stinks. It’s rotten. I don’t want to have to postpone either, but I think just for everyone’s best interest at heart, I think we should reschedule for May,” Koehn said.

Mayor Rex Satterthwaite suggested closing the park altogether to prevent people from using the pavilion and music fence. The council agreed to close the park to the public until May 1 and put up a barrier to aid enforcement.

This council meeting was held through a Zoom video conference due to the 10-person limit on gathering sizes and Sedgwick County’s stay-at-home order. Council meetings are expected to continue being held via Zoom through the month of April.

In other business, the council:

  • Heard that the senior center will be closed until May 1.
  • Agreed to move forward with a grant application for Williams Park even though the followup information they had requested at their previous meeting about reimbursement was not available.
  • Approved the purchase of a new water pump not to exceed $5,000, contingent on obtaining another bid. The also approved the purchase of a new meter not to exceed $510.
  • Agreed to keep the burn site closed until at least the next council meeting.
  • Tabled a decision on a plumbing quote to install a washer and dryer in the fire station. The council felt the one quote they had was high and requested more quotes.