City leans on Lithia to finish park splash pad

Summer is almost half over and one of the main features of a new downtown park next to the Lithia headquarters is missing.

A splash pad hasn't been squirting water for children to play in — even though the park was opened in March — raising concern among members of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board on Thursday.

"Summer is fleeting, and that is the primary feature of that park block," Board Chairman Dick Gordon said.

Gordon and other board members leaned on Lithia Motors, the general contractor for The Commons parks, to get the splash pad working and a drinking fountain installed.

They also wanted to make sure that costs fall in line with the $1.5 million budget for construction of the second park, located between Fifth and Fourth streets, just to the north of the existing park.

"You've got to bring this project in on budget," Gordon said.

Eric Iversen, project manager for Lithia, said the drinking fountain for the first park has been ordered, and he expects work to begin within about two weeks. The work could be finished sometime in August, he said.

Iversen said Lithia is picking up the $10,000 tab for the drinking fountain, which wasn't part of the original plans for the first park.

The splash pad has stalled over difficulties in receiving a permit from Jackson County.

To address the county's concerns, an additional $15,000 will be spent to install more equipment in the splash pad, which will shoot jets of water into the air and will be illuminated with colorful lights at night.

Work on the drinking fountains and the splash pad will be undertaken at the same time because both projects will require removal of a section of the newly laid pavers in the park, now known as Pear Blossom Park.

Iversen said Lithia also is paying for the additional work on the splash pad.

"We want to bring this to a resolution," he said.

In addition, the MURA board wanted drinking fountains in the second park that is now under construction off Fourth Street.

Iversen said he anticipated that some reworking of underground electrical connections could offset the cost of the drinking fountains.

Iversen said an underground storage tank was discovered during construction of the second park, which could add to the costs. However, he said the environmental cleanup wasn't extensive, although he didn't have the cost to remedy it yet.

An entrance to the old Greyhound bus terminal in the second park was a bone of contention with the MURA board.

The work to save the portal is under way. Metal supports have been installed, and paint has been removed from the green tile.

KOGAP Enterprises Inc. of Medford, which is building the park, provided the city with a $30,000 price to restore the portal. Lithia is picking up more than half the cost, Iversen said.

Lithia also has been restoring the original Greyhound letters, which will be affixed to the portal and backlit with neon.

The second park should be completed sometime in the fall.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or

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