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CDD Golf Course Purchase Negotiations Hit Snag

The June 5 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw supervisors pass a corrected draft budget while addressing Greens guard house salaries, Greens speeding and increase the budget for Westchase’s holiday décor.

Supervisors also pressed the pause button on their potential purchase of the golf course when its owner declined to respond to the purchase and sale agreement the district sent him early last month.

Supervisors began, however, by addressing an item of old business. In May the district acquired a large lake and two smaller ones lying between Westchase (specifically the neighborhoods of Sturbridge and Stonebridge) and West Lake Townhomes, the new townhome development behind Davidsen Middle School. At May’s meeting, supervisors asked if a $1,500 bid for adding the lakes to the district’s pond maintenance contract with A&B Aquatics included mandated reporting to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMD). At the June 5 meeting, supervisors passed the bid unanimously, 4-0, when they were assured the reporting was included. (Supervisor Jim Mills was absent.)

Later in the meeting CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart also addressed the lakes, specifically the SWFMD permit covering their maintenance. The original permit for the area covers both the lakes and the townhome development. Stewart explained that in filing the permit transfer from M/I Homes, which the developed West Lake Townhomes, the permit was supposed to have been “split,” with the document making clear that the townhomes’ HOA was responsible for its property while the lakes became the responsibility of the CDD. Stewart stated that the new permit sent to her had responsibility for all of the area covered by the previous permit now listed as the district’s responsibility. She stated the board had  to follow up with SWFMD with a document to correct the new permit. Supervisor Chesney, chairing the meeting, agreed to sign the document, following CDD Attorney Erin McCormick’s review.

District Manager Andy Mendenhall of Inframark then asked supervisors to pass a new version of the draft budget for the county’s Truth in Millage statements, mailed to homeowners in the fall. Last month supervisors intended to pass a budget draft that held assessments the same as last year; the copy of the budget circulated with the agenda package, however, inadvertently pulled more than $60,000 out of the budget. CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney credited CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte with catching the error. To correct it, supervisors unanimously approved a corrected version of the budget, keeping assessments unchanged. The new draft also keeps commercial assessments flat rather than increasing them slightly as the last draft reflected.

Supervisors can continue tinkering with the budget, lowering but not raising the draft’s assessments. Given supervisors’ comments, however, it’s likely the passed budget will remain unchanged. The official budget, however, will be formally passed at the Aug. 7 budget hearing at 4 p.m. at the Westchase Community Association (WCA) office building.

Supervisor Barbara Griffith inquired whether assessments for the new David Weekley townhomes in West Park Village had been appropriately updated to reflect their use as residential properties. When District Manager Mendenhall located documentation that suggested it had not, he committed to having staff move forward with implementing the change.

Supervisors then returned to the Greens guard house contract with Securitas. In May staff recommended a salary increase for the Greens guards, stating they, and particularly the gatehouse’s longtime supervisor, had not received an increase in eight years. Staff added they were in danger of losing the supervisor as a result. In May, however, supervisors postponed approving the increase until staff could research what a more recent 2014 increase in the Securitas contract covered. With staff stating the 2014 increase was to cover increased health insurance costs, supervisors unanimously passed the proposed salary increase, 4-0.

Supervisor Brian Ross then brought up an issue flagged by the district audit. Ross stated he was troubled that he had learned about a fraudulent check from the audit rather than from Inframark staff. The check was made out to an Inframark staff member (Inframark was then called Severn Trent), but it had been changed, with its amount and payee changed. While the district was made whole by the bank that cashed the fraudulent check, Ross stated, “I have litigated a lot of these cases. It’s almost always someone who is in possession of the check who alters the check.” He added, “I can’t help but feel there is someone working for your guys who mishandled the item.”

Mendenhall apologized for Inframark’s failure to notify supervisors, stating he was also only belatedly informed of the matter. He added that Inframark investigated the matter and found no employee at fault. Further, he stated the employee associated with the check had worked for the company for years and, in his opinion, lacked the sophistication to undertake the fraud and cash the check under a Russian name on the west coast of the U.S.

Ross, however, insisted that Inframark take the step of filing a criminal affidavit so that law enforcement might further investigate the matter.

Concluding the meeting, supervisors briefly discussed conclusions reached about the potential Westchase Golf Course purchase with Supervisor Barbara Griffith, who along with Supervisor Matt Lewis, missed the CDD Workshop on Monday, June 4. Summarizing the informal decision made by supervisors at the workshop, CDD Erin McCormick stated of the course owner, “At this point we did not get any written counterproposal to our purchase and sale agreement.”

“Nor have they accepted the agreement,” added Supervisor Greg Chesney.

The current impasse is rooted in disagreements between the district and the owner over terms of the purchase and sale agreement. While still open to hearing from and discussing the purchase with the owner, supervisors declined to take further action until they heard back from the owner, especially given a significant list of deferred maintenance issues they have discovered. Supervisors’ workshop discussion and due diligence discoveries will be detailed in July’s WOW. 

In other actions:

Supervisors approved a bid just under $6,000 for the installation of two traffic radar readout speed signs for Gretna Green in The Greens, provided the vendor provided a four-year warranty.

Supervisors also approved the purchase of a Ford F350 dump truck to replace the district’s 20-year-old dump truck, whose interior floors have rusted out. The cost of the truck is $45,575.

Supervisors also approved spending an additional $5,000 (over the $5,000 currently budgeted) for holiday decorations in November/December. Supervisors also asked that staff return to July’s meeting with some additional ideas for holiday décor.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:42 p.m.

By Chris Barrett

Posted June 7, 2018

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