Volunteers helping town rebuild playground

The playground in Francis Thomson Memorial Park in Waterloo caught on fire Sunday afternoon.

WATERLOO, Ind. (WANE) – A fire destroyed most of a town playground earlier this week, but the loss isn’t expected to remain long. Many businesses, churches, and people have told town leaders they’ll help in any way possible to rebuild.

The playground at Francis Thomson Memorial Park caught fire Sunday afternoon after, according to police, some boys created a fire pit that got out of control. Nearby residents saw the fire and called 911, but it still took crews an hour to get the fire under control.

David Bolton, the president of the Waterloo Town Council, said all but 25 percent of the playground was destroyed.

The fire spawned a special town council meeting Thursday night to decide what to do next. Council voted unanimously for Merritt Enterprises to demolish the damage. Waterloos Town Manager Tena Woenker said the Waterloo-based company submitted the lowest bid because leaders with the business wanted to help the town. Merritt Enterprises said it would clear the rubble for $950.

“Demolition can start [Friday] if the contractor is available,” Bolton said, who expected demolition to last about a week.

It was clear that residents in the crowd want the playground to be rebuilt. Town leaders have gotten all kinds of offers from those willing to lend a hand. If they want it, they can get building materials, volunteers to do the labor, food to feed the workers, and even child care for those willing to donate their time. Bolton added that organizations from Auburn have also asked how they could help.

“It could be little to no cost to the town when we’re all said and done,” Bolton said.

Waterloo’s park board will oversee the work on the new playground. Insurance will cover many expenses the town may have, and there could possibly be money left over, thanks to the volunteer labor, for additions to the park. The town had a $1,000 deductible on the playground, but a local business came forward and offered to pay that to save the town money.

Anyone interested in making a monetary contribution to the playground can make a donation to the Community Foundation DeKalb County.

The town has also gotten an overwhelming amount of support through social media.

Since the old playground was built – it was completed in November of 2000 – new ADA standards have been set. The new playground will have to make some slight modifications to meet those requirements.

Many volunteers lining up to help had a hand when the playground first opened. “The folks who helped us build the park 15 years ago for their children…it’s now those children who are the adults who are going to help us rebuild this park,” said Ed McDowd, who was voted by the board to help oversee the project. McDowd coordinated the project back at the turn of the century. “It’s generational if you think about it. People want to be involved and they want to be a part of a good thing.”

Bolton projected the new playground to be available in the later part of summer.

This isn’t the only playground project going on in town. Waterloo is in the second year of a three-year process of building Pankop Park on the north end of town, near Rope and Colgrove Streets.

The playground fire was the second large fire in Waterloo so far this year. In January, a fire claimed an antique store on South Wayne Street. Town leaders said the owner of the building has been very cooperative in helping the town condemn and take over the property to clean up the land and demolish the building.

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