Leathers wins bid to rebuild Imagination Station playground by Reynolds High School.

COURTESY: LEATHERS  - The winning design by Leathers & Associates includes a red-barn facade, all-access Liberty Swing, rock wall climber with Multnomah Falls mural and multiple slides and play areas. Troutdale City Council has selected Leathers & Associates as the vendor who will construct a new playground dubbed Imagination Station II.

The 6-to-1 decision paves the way for the demolition and total reconstruction of the play structure at Columbia Park, 1900 S.W. Cherry Park Road, next to Reynolds High School.

"I will go to the wall to keep this (project) under $800,000," pledged City Manager Ray Young during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 9. "It's a playground, but it's also something that is a very important part of the culture of Troutdale."

The winning design by Leathers features plastic lumber materials similar to the current wooden fort, a Liberty Swing for wheelchair users, plus separate play areas for big kids and little tots. It is expected to last at least 30 years.

The councilors' choice mirrors the non-binding recommendation of the parks committee, who heard presentations from all four bidders. While not appearing to affect their final decision — a behind-the-scenes tussle broke out between Leathers and runner-up Play By Design, with both sides accusing the other of being a "copycat."

"Leathers is overpromising on the design and understating the expected costs," complained Play By Design Co-Owner Lee Archin in an email dated Dec. 11.

Archin acknowledged his $948,000 bid exceeded the cap set by City Hall, but explained that he had tacked on an extra 20 percent for the cost of rubber surfacing and could swap out optional metal slides for cheaper materials.

"Play By Design is the only true copycat company," Marc Leathers, the company's president, responded the next day. "Their tactic is to simply discredit (us)."

Councilor Glenn White, the lone dissenting vote against Leathers, said he preferred plans by MRC GameTime, whose prefabricated build offered the cheapest price, construction and low-cost maintenance using off-the-shelf parts.

"I think we're losing out on the inclusiveness for children with autism," he noted.

Also on Tuesday, City Council voted 5 to 2 against selecting a second-choice vendor in case dealings with Leathers fall through. Councilors White and Rich Allen opposed the motion.

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