Tampa preschool paid tens of thousands for dangerous playground surface that’s hurting kids

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Bridges Preschool staff thought they were upgrading their playground with a fancy rubber surface. They ended up with dangerous holes.

“We had mulch and wanted to go with something that was safer for the kids,” said Jennifer Foster, school director. “We ended up with something worse for the kids. “

Foster turned to Better Call Behnken for answers after she says the company cut off communication in March, after promising to fix the mess.

If laid properly, poured in place rubber surfaces should last 15 to 20 years. The one at Bridges Preschool was laid nearly two years ago. Foster says it started to crumble within a month. She says the company B&B Playpro LLC is owned by James “Eddie” Barnhill.

At first, Barnhill took responsibility and came out to fix the smaller of the two playgrounds. He put multiple patches on the larger playground, but the holes got worse and now she says she can’t reach him.

“I even asked him if he could just come fill the holes in .. and “Aw, I’ll be there tomorrow .. and never showed up,” Foster said.

I called Barnhill, but his voicemail box was full. I sent him a text message. Hours later, he called back. After reviewing Better Call Behnken video and photos of the playground, Barnhill promised to take action.

“I didn’t realize it was that bad,” he said.

Barnhill said he’s not solely responsible. He said the school and its affiliated church, Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, pressured him to move forward with the playground, even after materials were drenched by Hurricane Irma.

“I told them there might be a problem,” he said.

Barnhill agreed that the playground is dangerous, and he says he’ll try to help this week. To fix the playground, he says, it need to lay a new top coat, and that will cost him $5,000. He says he doesn’t have the money right now, but that he can add a buffing material to holes that will make the surface flush and safer for the children.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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