WILMINGTON – Wilmington City Council took action Tuesday night to move forward with renovating the pocket park connecting Front Street and the newly constructed River Place along Water Street.
Originally planned as part of the River Place project, the revitalization of Bijou Park was delayed last spring after it came in approximately $800,000 over budget. The city found a more affordable price this fall after receiving several new bids .
“The numbers came in much better this time,” Mike Naklicki, project manager with the city, told the council Monday during an agenda briefing.
Tuesday night council awarded a $604,795 contract to Muter Construction, its lowest bidder on the project. The Zebulon, N.C.-based company will demolish the existing structures and renovate the park.
The new design emphasizes safety, connectivity and access to the park, which is sandwiched between two buildings. Some of the features include overhead string lighting, a green wall, “bistro-style” dining, and decorative and transparent screen panels.
The city is also focused on preventing any nuisance behavior, an issue officials have been increasingly concerned with. There are two security cameras, bollard lighting and uplighting in the trees planned as part of the reconstruction.
The design is an open concept to allow for visibility into the park, with features strategically designed and placed so people or police can see behind them.
During the agenda briefing, staff received input from council on the design. The city is removing planned modular block seating and adding fixed high-top tables throughout the space. It is also reconsidering the entryway canopy to ensure passersby understand it is a public – not a private – park.
As part of the project, the city will preserve the Bijou entrance and fill in some of the missing white hexagon tiles. Naklicki said a few people have come forward with pieces of the original tile they had lying in a desk drawer or other places throughout their homes.
To award the contract, the city had to appropriate a supplemental $230,000 from its available debt capacity for the project. The money will cover additional funds needed for the construction contract award, a 10% construction contingency and material testing.
The renovations are expected to be completed in June 2021.
Covid-19 leave, vaccine incentives
Also at the meeting Tuesday, the Wilmington council revisited the city’s paid-and-advance leave policy. A federal act requiring employers to provide certain paid leave to staff expired Dec. 31.
Effective through June 30, the city is now offering up to two weeks of paid leave to employees who need to quarantine or care for sick family.
“If employees do not have time . . . available to them, they’re likely to come to work with Covid-19,” Alvin Ragland, Wilmington director of human resources, told the council Tuesday.
More than 400 employees – about 40% of the city’s workforce – have been exposed to Covid-19. Of those, approximately 95 tested positive.
The city will also give up to two weeks of advanced time off to employees who need to stay home with children who are out of school or daycare; the advanced leave would be paid back through payroll deductions.
The council also approved a policy to incentivize employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Employees with proof of their shots will earn a half-day of paid time off.
The staff compared this to another city policy where employees can get four hours of paid leave when they donate blood.
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