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CDD Discusses How to Pay for Parks Project; Baybridge Park Playground Set for Demolition March 4

At their March 1 meeting, Westchase CDD supervisors discussed how to pay for their $1.6 million parks improvement program, which kicked off with the demolition of Baybridge Park’s playground area on Friday, March 4.

Supervisors also addressed complaints from a Stamford resident about kids jumping the Baybridge Park wall to cut through her yard. The March session also saw Supervisor Bob Argus raise concerns about the appearance of sod in Westchase medians and Chair Mark Ragusa question the cost of the district’s contract with the horticultural expert that monthly grades the district’s landscape maintenance work.

At the nearly two hour meeting, Westchase Community Development District (CDD) supervisors addressed a number of matters related to their current parks improvement plan. Citing a recent media interview, CDD Chair Ragusa stated he had been asked how the district would pay for the roughly $1.6 million parks project and stated he couldn’t offer an answer. “We’re at least $700,000 short,” he stated.

CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney, however, countered that his look at the district’s finances suggested that no outside financing for the project would be necessary. Two years ago the CDD raised assessments to bring in $400,000 in each of the last two years to pay for the project. Chesney pointed out they could leave next year’s budget, which begins Oct. 1, unchanged to collect an additional $400,000. In addition to that $1.2 million, Chesney stated he had located a general reserve fund for road repaving left over from the district’s early years. That fund had just over $500,000 in it, but the district’s only owned road (outside of gated neighborhoods, which pay for their own road maintenance) was Radcliffe Drive between Linebaugh Avenue and the Westchase Golf Course. Combined with assessments, this $500,000 totals $1.7 million in available funds. Chesney committed to completing and forwarding to the board a financial worksheet he had started on the park project.

Hearing updates on the parks plan from both CDD Attorney Erin McCormick and Field Manager Doug Mays, supervisors learned that demolition of Baybridge Park’s playground area would begin that week (Mays later called WOW and pinpointed the start date as Friday, March 4.)

Turning to work in Glencliff, which is not expected to start until sometime in May, Mays stated he had been contacted by the Westchase MOMS Club. The group requested that the Glencliff Park equipment, which supervisors elected last month to keep unshaded so they could be seen from the road, actually covered with a shade structure.

Rather than keep the existing shade structures, which are low, dark green and easily climbed by teens, Mays brought three different proposals from the park equipment producer, Dynamo, with prices of $54,000, $49,000 and $38,000 (the more expensive proposals offering greater shade coverage). All three were comprised of higher, pitched, sail-shaped structures. “With it,” he stated, “It will be more of a showpiece.”

While supervisors briefly entertained the mid-level option, they ultimately passed a motion to accept the $54,000 option. When supervisors expressed concerns that their changes to the contracts during the course of the project would raise its overall costs, Mays assured them that work on other features outside the play equipment appeared to be coming in lower than originally projected. “I really think we’re going to be under the budget line for the project,” he stated.

Mays also committed to ensuring the new shade structures would be raised high enough and have enough space between the structures and play equipment to address the current problem with teens climbing on top of them.

Turning to the new small toddler park in West Park Village beside the soon-to-be refurbished splash fountain, Mays requested that supervisors change its approved contract to expand the playground rubberized surface to the designated fence line. He stated this would avoid issues with mulch intrusion or the surface butting up to a different level surface. The change, he stated, would add just over $10,000 to the contract price approved in February, raising it from $86,000 to $97,642.  Supervisors approved the change unanimously.

Mays, however, stated that he won’t have a construction schedule for the work on the spray fountain or playground until the contractor receives the new contract.

All playground equipment contracts approved by the districts, however, stipulate that all work must be completed within 75 days of its particular commencement.

Supervisors then had a lengthy discussion with Stamford resident Helen Foessett, whose home backs up to Linebaugh Avenue and the southwest corner of Baybridge Park. Foessett stated that her neighbor and she have had repeated issues with trespassers cutting through their yards after jumping the CDD owned fence and wall at the back corner of the park. When she’s asked them to stop, they have resorted to damaging her property in retaliation. Mays stated he would attempt to make the shortcut more difficult with landscaping plantings. A few days after the meeting, Mays added that supervisors had visited the area and had made other suggestions for resolving the problem.

Closing major discussion, Supervisor Bob Argus expressed concerns about the appearance of some of the sod in Westchase medians. Reminding supervisors they had been previously told that Davey, the district’s landscaper, would get on top of weed-infested areas once the cooler weather arrived, Argus stated, “We still have weed infestation.” He added, “As I go up and down the road, every day it gets worse and worse.” He asked Mays to pass on a message to Davey. “Would you make it clear to them they need to take better care of the grass?”

Citing a recent requested increase to its contract, Ragusa questioned whether OLM, the district’s independent landscaping consultant that monthly grades Davey’s performance, was worth what the district was paying. Stating OLM keeps passing Davey with scores in the 90s, he added, “I just don’t see what OLM is bringing to the table anymore.”

Ragusa encouraged supervisors to consider exploring a different independent horticultural expert once the current contract with Davey expires next year.

In other actions:

Citing lawsuits against commercial retailers, Ragusa requested staff explore whether the district’s Web site complied with WCAG standards, which make a Web site compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Supervisors passed a motion authorizing CDD staff to explore the possible donation of old playground equipment to a charitable organization such as Habitat for Humanity.

Field Supervisor Doug Mays stated he acquired a bid for $4,200 for the installation of two additional lights for the pedestrian bridge crossing the canal from the West Park Village tennis courts into Village Green.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Posted 4 March 2016

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