A Northeast recreation center and playground closed for nearly a year because of alleged shoddy workmanship in a $284,500 renovation was hastily reopened last week with many of the deficiencies remaining.
D.C. Recreation officials unlocked the gates to the Sherwood Recreation Center, Ninth and G Streets NE, although there are no swings, rides for small children are broken and there is an inoperable water fountain full of sand.
Neighborhood children, anxious to use the recreation center, last week helped staff members pick up trash that littered the ball park, basketball courts and playground.
Alexis Roberson, director of the D.C. Department of Recreation, said her officials conducted a final inspection of Sherwood on June 21 and found "some deficiencies" but decided to open the following week because some of the major problems that kept the park closed had been repaired.
The basketball court is still not level, there are no swings and many of the toy rides are installed improperly, "but at least the grass on the ball field has finally come through and that was the deciding factor" in reopening the playground, Roberson said.
"Now for the first time the field looks well enough for people to use and walk on," she said. "The grounds look better, the swings will go up next week and we plan on having the basketball court leveled as soon as they contractors can get to it," she said.
"We have kept the park closed these last few months because the grass on the ballpark was reseeded and it needed time to grow in," she said. "The other problems can be repaired while the center is opened."
Daniel Butler, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that includes the Sherwood community, said he has been "totally disgusted" with the recreation department's management of the center.
"Over $200,000 was spent to fix this playground and we were told we would be able to use the center long before now," he said, "and for the past four months that park just sat there with locked gates . . . . And now they just up and open it? Why all of a sudden now?
"Nothing was done to that park since March," said Butler, who lives a block from Sherwood and has monitored the construction work. "They recreation officials said there were construction problems, but no one came in and fixed anything. So why did they open last week instead of four months ago?"
Some neighborhood children became impatient with the locked gates and lack of work so they cut a hole in the fence and started using the playground, Butler said.
"These kids were in there unsupervised and there were several incidents where children were injured," said Butler.
Roberson and recreation officials said the MTI Construction Co. was hired in June 1984 to renovate Sherwood, which is directly behind Goding Elementary School. The work was to be completed by November, she said, but in December officials found a lot of the work unsatisfactory.
"I'm talking about two pages of deficiencies," Roberson said. "The ballpark needed to be totally regraded and reseeded, there were no swings, the picnic benches were not installed properly. There was a total of 23 deficiencies."
Roberson said the contractors were given until March to correct the problems but that deadline was missed.
"The ballpark was still spotty, the spring animals were not assembled correctly, and the basketball court was not level," she said.
"We made a decision not to open because their were too many deficiencies and we were not going to accept inferior work," she said.
"We were shooting for May now," she added. "But some of the same problems were still there in May."
But a spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works, which supervised the contractor, said recreation department officials had accepted all of the work at Sherwood on December 20, 1984. In May, recreation officials said there were a few minor problems, which the contractor would correct, the spokesman said.
In addition to the playing fields, neighborhood children can also go to the recreation center to draw and receive materials for making crafts. There is also some instruction in archery, disco-dancing and various summer sports, according to the staff.
But Butler said that if Sherwood was located in upper Northwest, in a wealthier neighborhood, it would receive better services.
"If you go along Wisconsin Ave. and look at recreation centers there you will see the grass all trimmed and every kind of apparatus any child could ever dream of, but we don't have that." said Butler.