Improvement to and within the Harvey County Parks Department, particularly in regard to projects already on the capital improvement plan, came up in great detail at Monday's meeting of the county commission.

There were a few items addressed specifically, including the following:

1) Shifting approach on equipment purchase

Based on feedback Parks Director Kass Miller said he received regarding the excavator attachment for skid steer loaders, the department is moving away from a plan to purchase that attachment and instead looking at purchasing a standalone mini-excavator.

Utilizing the attachment, Miller noted he heard several negative comments — most notably that the attachment could not be controlled from the skid steer but rather from the attachment itself and the reach/visibility of the unit is limited (with the department's hauling capacity also creating issues with the attachment) — leading him to pursue other options.

At the moment, Miller noted he has done a little research and found a used mini-excavator available at a preliminary estimated cost of $26,500, but County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber also brought up the potential to put the purchase of said equipment out to bid to get a better picture of pricing and value.

"If we don't go new, it's very difficult to bid used items because you're not comparing apples to apples," Swartzendruber said.

"That's what I'd prefer to see done rather than jumping on the first thing that comes across the board," said commission chair Randy Hague.

Miller stated that $20,000 was set aside in the budget for the excavator attachment and there is about $5,000 of additional funding leftover from planned renovations to Camp Hawk that could also go towards that. That should come close to covering the cost of the machine, while sales revenue could help as well for a piece of equipment the department and commissioners do see value in having.

2) Offering more opportunities to play

Replacement of playground equipment has been an item lined out in the capital improvement plan for a few years, and some of that work is set to begin this year.

While there are no set requirements on what can be included, but rather federal "recommendations," Miller said the department is keeping its options open.

Looking to get started with the replacement of equipment at the Walnut Grove playground area, Miller said the plan is to include a diverse variety of equipment within the parks — like having a fitness playground, children's playground, climbing playground, etc. Right now, the department is working on a plan regarding what equipment it brings in for the renovated playground.

"There are multiple playground suppliers and we're just trying to get the most bang for our buck," Miller said. "Our ultimate goal would be to make this all-inclusive for everyone of all abilities to be able to participate and enjoy."

Pricing on equipment ranges in cost from $7,000 to $70,000 and while Miller noted bidders usually want to help come up with the plan, Swartzendruber said the county could facilitate that through a request for qualifications in the process and then work together with vendors on the plans for the playground area.

3) Cabin fever

Another item in the capital improvement plan needed to be readdressed, as the parks department had floated the idea of adding cabins to rent in the county parks — initially pegging East Park as a potential site for that amenity. After the vote in favor of keeping Camp Hawk, though, that site also become a possible location for cabins.

Location was not the only variable to the plan though, as Miller noted the department has been considering whether to buy a pre-fabricated storage shed and finish the inside itself or to buy a fully pre-fabricated unit made specifically for parks by a company out of Arkansas City.

"They're really nice. They are more expensive. We would probably only be able to do one cabin versus building two of them on our own, but they're much nicer than what we would ever be able to build," Miller said.

"A person always thinks you can save money by doing it yourself, but when it gets all said and done it's probably cheaper to go the other way," Hague said.

While no final decision was made on what route to take with the cabin, there was a decision made on what could hold up the installation of a cabin at Camp Hawk — the presence of the old residential facility.

"My feeling is just get rid of it," said commissioner Ron Krehbiel.

Getting rid of that building would leave a water source for the potential cabin and consideration was given to either sell the house or demolish it, with the commission coming to a consensus more in line with the latter.