LEESBURG, Fla. – Leesburg is weeks away from installing a new swing designed for children with disabilities gifted to the city by the community, however, the gift ended up costing the city $28,717.
“It’s hard to say ‘no’ to that, and you run into these unexpected costs so it was disappointing, but we will get it up,” city manager Al Minner said.
Leesburg city officials agreed to accept the swing after resident Mark Stapleton offered to raise the money for it after seeing a video of one on Facebook earlier this year.
"I read the story and I said, 'Wait a minute, Leesburg doesn't have one," Stapleton said.
It only took four weeks before he raised $3,000 through online fundraising efforts and by putting up a collection jug in his thrift store of Highway 441.
Bill Bryan Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram donated $500 for the swing.
"I think people in the community, the ones who have handi-cappable kids, I think they are the ones that are going to be touched by this," said Saleen Chanan-Faulkner, with the dealership.
However, 8 months after delivering it to the city, the swing still isn’t up.
“We’ve been waiting ever since,” Stapleton said. “I keep hearing, ‘Oh, 30 days, 30 days.’”
Minner said the delay is due to unanticipated costs to install the special swing.
“It’s a higher risk, so we had to make some more precautions with the flooring, make sure we got it insured and assembled correctly, so one thing led to another - which was a cost on us,” Minner said.
City commissioners reluctantly approved the nearly $29,000 to install the $3,000 gift at a commission meeting last month.
According to the city minutes from the meeting:
“Commissioner Robuck stated we really do not have much choice since we agreed to accept the wheelchair swing, but we are spending $28,000, which is more than it cost. He pulled this because he does not want stuff like this to happen again. If someone wants to give us something, it needs to go through our regular budget process. He feels this kind of got pushed on us, we did not have any say, and it was not part of the whole park design.”
Mayor Pro Temp agreed with those sentiments.
Minner said it’s most likely a lesson learned on how they will move forward with accepting gifts, now on a “case by case” basis.
In the meantime, Stapleton is pleased it’s finally going to be installed.
"It didn't bother me," he said. "This is for the children."
Minner said the swing is in the permitting process and they hope to begin construction in December with the project expected to be done by mid-December.