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Opening of splash pad in MLK Park delayed

The East Side neighborhood around Martin Luther King Park that has been waiting for the opening of a five-acre splash pad will have to wait a little longer.

City of Buffalo officials said Monday that a $4.5 million park renovation will not be ready by July 1, as originally planned.

"Normal construction delays" have set back the attraction's opening, said Steven J. Stepniak, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, Parks and Streets.

Stepniak did not specify a new opening date, saying only that the city is taking the project "day by day."

A major renovation of the park, which includes the construction of a splash pad for summertime use, a reflecting pool in the spring and fall and an ice rink in winter, has been years in the making, and construction began last summer.

The city expects the park overhaul to last 50 years.

"You want a correct product in the long run," Stepniak said.

Majority Leader Demone A. Smith, whose Masten District includes the park, said he prefers quality over speed.

"I'd rather they take their time and do a good job than to try to rush to meet a deadline," Smith said.

"We've been waiting 20 years for this," he said.

Smith suggested that the park could open a few weeks after July 1.

Stepniak, who noted that four miles of water pipes lay beneath the five-acre park, described the project as "very complicated."

A concrete pour is scheduled for Thursday, if the weather cooperates, he said.

Man O'Trees of West Seneca was awarded the construction contract last year.

Samuel A. Herbert, who heads the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Park, said he has doubts about whether any part of the facility will be in use by the time summer ends.

"Will we have this thing completed before summer's over?" Herbert said. "That's more important than anything."

Herbert has attended regular project meetings with the contractor and the city, and said Monday that he was "very disappointed" to hear about the delay.

He had already scheduled a community meeting about the project from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave. City and parks officials have been invited to attend.

Today, the Common Council is expected to approve an increase in Wendel Duchscherer's contract for the project for $116,550, which will be used for additional inspections.

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