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Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to accept a report that calls for seeking a new contractor to renovate Penny Park at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street.

The vote was a victory for a group of neighbors who opposed earlier plans to replace the wood play structures there, constructed largely by volunteers a quarter century ago, with new ones made of a plastic composite material.

Penny Park.

Last year the city brought back the original contractor for the 1990 park design, Leathers and Associates Inc., to consult on the redesign. But Leathers current preference for the plastic composite as a safer, more durable material ran into stiff opposition from the neighbors.

So the aldermen Monday agreed with the Park and Recreation Board recommendation to pay off Leathers for work done so far and find a new contractor for the project.

In the meantime the city had also contracted with Playground Guardian, a national consulting firm that conducts safety audits of playground equipment.

Tony Malkusak of Playground Guardian produced a report identifying dozens of safety and maintenance issues at the park — ranging from too-short guardrails and objects that could crush fingers and toes to places where clothing could become entangled in equipment creating choking and other hazards.

But Malkusak said the problems could be addressed either by replacement, better in-place maintenance or off-site restoration of the equipment.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the park board “took a mess from us and fixed it.”

The report, she said, “was so well done and made so much sense. Hopefully we can get moving on it immediately.”

Related stories

Rec board ‘starts fresh’ on Penny Park (2/20/15)

Rec board to get park hot potato (1/27/15)

Penny Park: Maybe just let it rot? (1/26/15)

Neighbors attack plans to update park (12/11/14)

Aldermen move forward with Penny Park rebuild (10/14/14)

City to award Penny Park design contract (10/13/14)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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