By Jessica Mathews/

Construction of a whimsical garden park is proving to be a true community project in the City of Howell.

The public gathering project is being funded through a Kaboom Grant and contribution from Thai Summit. the park space would be located behind the Depot Lot and Michigan Avenue. Initial ideas were whimsical fairy gardens, hobbit houses and space for an amphitheater and performance area with a wooden stage.

The Department of Public Services is managing the project with an existing budget of $135,000. If the project was to be bid out like a typical construction project, staff estimates it would cost between $250,000 and $300,000. A waiver was sought from an ordinance that requires competitive bids be obtained for purchases over $10,000. City Council granted unanimous approval at last Monday's online meeting. The request will allow staff the ability to work with suppliers and contractors to secure best pricing and product for the grant project.

The City is working with local vendors that are willing to reduce their costs and have a vested interest in making the project a great park for the community. DPS employees are said to be volunteering their time on the project and other City staff has also volunteered to help with certain aspects. DPS Director Erv Suida said they’re working with vendors willing to donate a lot of the work or do it low-cost. Suida says they’re going through contractors that have submitted bids, performed work or been low bidders. He said they want the best materials and contractor for the best price if not donated to help them out. As word has gotten out, Suida says a lot of interest has come their way.

Following Council approval, staff will be securing supplies and contractors to get the project done within the permitted schedule.