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CDD Supervisors Seek Consultant for Park Plans; Weigh Greens Gatehouse Cost Changes

An Oct. 8 meeting saw Westchase CDD supervisors agree on an approach to completing park renovations and heard talk of possible cost increases – or overnight staffing changes – to The Greens gatehouse security contract.

Addressing upcoming park work, Community Development District (CDD) Attorney Erin McCormick announced that she had prepared a public notice seeking a designer for plans, which will largely focus on bringing Baybridge and Glencliff Parks’ playgrounds into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “We’re going to do a request for qualifications for a park planning consultant,” she stated.

Citing his recollection that supervisors had not yet specified an approach for tackling the project, CDD Chair Mark Ragusa inquired whether the announcement precluded the hiring of a design-build firm, a single company that would both design the project and complete its construction.

McCormick acknowledged it would. The approach envisioned by the notice involved the hiring of a consultant who would design the project’s scope of work. The resulting specifications would then be put out to bid. Subsequently, the consultant would oversee the work to ensure it complied with the plan. McCormick’s approach had been previously recommended by CDD Supervisor Greg Chesney.

Prior to approving McCormick’s public notice, however, Ragusa pressed supervisors to clarify the board’s preferred approach. While stating he was aware of the advantages and disadvantages of both using a design-build firm or breaking it into separate components as McCormick’s approach would do, Ragusa stated he was unsure of the best way to proceed. He therefore requested input from CDD Engineer Tonja Steward, District Manager Andrew Mendenhall and McCormick. Stewart stated she preferred hiring a designer prior to bidding the work. She offered two caveats, however. She suggested the district should subsequently hire a general contractor to manage the project rather than have staff hire and oversee multiple contractors. She added, “You’ve got to really like your designer.”

A motion approving the public notice seeking a parks consultant ultimately passed unanimously. Supervisors indicated they would study responses at their November meeting and then invite some to interview.

Later in the meeting supervisors returned to the topic when Glencliff resident Kathy Carlsen suggested the consultant develop a long-range park plan, as previously advocated by CDD Supervisor Brian Ross and Chesney. Citing the need for a list of assets and potential plans for possible development over a longer time, Carlsen stated, “Things have changed in our community over the last 10 years.”

Ragusa, however, disagreed in part. “I don’t think we need someone to tell us [what we have].” Ragusa held that staff and supervisors understood what available park space the district owned.

“It’s not what we have,” Carlsen pressed. “It’s what we want to do with it.”

Ragusa continued. “To do a full blown park plan, that makes sense. We don’t need an inventory.”

Ragusa, however, warned that any plans to convert green space to an area containing play equipment would likely see pushback. “The community will come out,” he said. “It’s never for change.”

Concluding the matter, staff agreed to provide Carlsen with a list of park areas delineated in their insurance documents as well as a copy of the district’s 2005 capital improvement program.

Following up on a previous month’s topic, staff reported the county had posted no parking signs in the right-of-way at the Bridgeton Drive turnaround just outside Baybridge Park’s gates. In recent months, park visitors have parked in the right of way, essentially blocking the road and forcing traffic to pass through the congested parking lot instead. Field Supervisor Doug Mays reported that the signage did not appear to stem the illegal parking in recent weeks yet the county was reluctant to paint road lines or use signs that more clearly stated “no parking.” While staff committed to following up with the county, CDD Chair Ragusa suggested they might also have the district’s off-duty deputy patrol address the situation. “He needs to decide whether he wants to ticket everyone,” Ragusa observed.

Referring to a memo of recommended staff salary and bonus increases circulated to supervisors, District Manager Andrew Mendenhall requested supervisors take action on the request, which would be retroactive to Oct. 1. The recommendations called for staff salary increases of five percent.

Supervisor Chesney, however, stated he saw the recommended increase as excessive. “I don’t think we should do it,” he said, instead suggesting staff should be given an increase equivalent to the government’s consumer price index (CPI) measure of inflation with exceptional efforts subsequently rewarded by bonus. Stating “no one is getting five percent raises,” Chesney argued that staff was already being paid at the top of their fields, which Mendenhall acknowledged was true.

Supervisor Bob Argus, however, stated he believed the CPI, because it factored in consumers’ tendency to switch to cheaper purchases when prices increase, underestimated inflation. He instead argued the district should peg salaries to the increase in the nation’s money supply, which he stated was 4.9 percent.

The district currently has four staff members, Field Supervisor Doug Mays, Office Manager Sonny Whyte and two other staff members, Livan Soto Viego and Cristian Guaba, who undertake field and park work. (CDD staff does not include the landscaping crews, which are employees of the district’s contracted landscaping company.) Under current practices, Mays suggests raises and bonuses based upon performance reviews of all staff members but himself. Mendenhall then makes recommendations for Mays after receiving supervisors’ input.

While Mendenhall has stated that Westchase staff members have been compensated at the high end of wage scales for their positions compared to other districts he manages, he has also emphasized that Westchase has the best employees of all his districts. Supervisors ultimately passed a motion 4-1, with Chesney opposed, embracing the five percent salary increases. [See the table below for the history of district salary increases.]

Supervisors then heard from James Davis and Andrea Kingston, two representatives of Securitas, the company that staffs The Greens guardhouse. Supervisors previously took no action on Securitas’ request that their contract be increased by 85 cents per hour to cover increased costs associated with providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, whose coverage mandate, unless delayed again, will go into effect Jan. 1. The increase represents a five percent increase (or $7,600 annually) to the current contract, whose costs are paid solely by Greens homeowners. Davis stated that Securitas would cover most of the $2 per hour costs associated with the healthcare mandate. Given the slim profit margins on security contracts, he added, the company needed the district to share the costs.

Initially, Ragusa appeared to doubt cost projections, insisting that most other security agencies simply were avoiding the health insurance mandate by turning to part-time employees under 30-hours per week.

Davis and Kingston, however, countered that part-time employees actually cost the company more due to higher turnover. Kingston observed that the Greens gatehouse had only one part-time employee and the service levels there were better as the result of using content, full-time employees.

At Ragusa’s request, Davis, however, committed to sharing his company’s internal financial projections of costs associated with the insurance mandate. Davis, however, offered an additional option. He stated many other communities were replacing overnight guards, which see only a handful of visitors, with automated systems, allowing remote control of access. He stated Securitas would install the equipment at no cost. With the savings arising from remote coverage overnight, the district could offset the healthcare increases and perhaps save money. Describing the transition to remote security elsewhere as successful, Davis stated, “The biggest hurdle is educating the residents that the barbarians won’t storm the gates and burn their houses down.”

Addressing the proposal, Ragusa asked Davis to return with a proposal. “I don’t want to make a quick decision today,” he said. “I think we need to let The Greens [homeowners] know.”

In other actions:

Supervisors approved a $33,550 contract, subject to their attorney’s review, for pond bank erosion repairs in portions of West Park Village, The Greens and The Fords. The work will be undertaken by Bio Mass Tech.

Tapping unspent funds from last year’s budget, supervisors approved the purchase of a $20,000 four-wheeler and a $4,000 sidewalk grinder.

Supervisors adjourned at 5:33 p.m.

CDD Staff Salary Changes

Field Supervisor

% Increase

Merit Bonus

Holiday Bonus

March 2008

5

 

 

Oct. 2008

6

 

 

Oct. 2009

3

 

$1,250

Oct. 2010

3

$400

$1,250

Oct. 2011

0

$1,200

$1,250

Oct. 2012

0

$2,500

$1,250

Oct. 2013

7

$1,500

$1,250

Oct. 2014

5

 

 

Office Manager

 

 

 

March 2008

8

 

 

Oct. 2008

5

 

 

Oct. 2009

4

 

$1,250

Oct. 2010

3

$400

$1,250

Oct. 2011

3

$1600

$1,250

Oct. 2012

3

$2,000

$1,250

Oct. 2013

5

$1,250

$1,250

Oct. 2014

5

 

 

Field Staff #1

 

 

 

Oct. 2011

3

 

$500

Oct. 2012

3

$1,000

$500

Oct. 2013

3

$300

$500

Oct. 2014

5

 

 

Field Staff #2

 

 

 

Oct. 2014

5

 

 

Notes: The dual increases in 2008 represented supervisors’ attempts to ensure CDD staff members were compensated competitively compared to other districts' equivalent employees. The Westchase Field Supervisor is a salaried position; the others are full-time hourly employees. The numbers above do not include additional benefits such as health care and the district’s retirement plan. Each employee was hired the year prior to the first noted increase.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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