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CDD to Tackle New Landscaping Bid and Playground Equipment

At their April 1 meeting Westchase CDD Supervisors faced news of two potential big-ticket items in their coming fiscal year – and it was no joke.

At the meeting, which saw the earliest discussions about the district’s new budget (beginning in October), supervisors on the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) continued discussions on bringing their playgrounds into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Their landscaping contractor, Mainscape, also made clear it was not interested in continuing its contract for an additional year at no increase. That news triggered preparations for bidding out the district’s biggest contract.

In recent months an audit of the district’s playground equipment has also made clear most equipment is no longer compliant with the ADA. Last month, supervisors requested that CDD Engineer Tonja Stewart undertake a second audit and bring her recommendations to them. Stewart announced she had inspected the equipment with the owner of Florida Water Features, whom she identified as a certified expert on compliance issues. “He basically indicated the existing equipment is non-compliant,” she stated. “All of the wood structures would have to be renovated.”

It could prove a pricey project. “I think you could easily spend a couple hundred thousand on each piece,” observed District Manager Andy Mendenhall.

Much of the district’s playground equipment – some of which dates to the late 1990s – is also well past its lifespan, according to Stewart, who stated playground equipment typically lasts seven to eight years.

Supervisors debated the best approach to finding a fix and hiring a skilled contractor well-versed in ADA compliance issues. Remarked CDD Chair Mark Ragusa, “I want to do business with a company that knows what the law is.”

Supervisor Brian Ross also expressed support for finding a “one-stop shop,” such as a design-build firm, that could both design the new playgrounds and then oversee the equipment installation.

While the project’s cost will trigger a formal bid process, supervisors have discovered that particular contractors tend to use only a single manufacturer’s equipment, making it challenging to get multiple bids if supervisors should favor a particular manufacturer. Ultimately supervisors requested Stewart to invite a handful of companies, including RDC, which completed the district’s previous capital improvement project, and Hardeman Kempton, which had made a previous pitch for a West Park Village park, to meet supervisors in May.

When Field Supervisor Doug Mays made his report later in the meeting, he informed supervisors that Mainscape had declined to renew their three-year contract for an additional year at no increase. “They’re not making the kind of funds on this the way they were hoping to make,” he stated. In recent months, Mainscape has also complained about the district’s contract. Under it the company has its work graded each month by independent horticultural inspector OLM, to determine they receive performance pay – 20 percent of the monthly contract.

Mays suggested that supervisors expand their bid prequalification requirements to enable smaller companies with lower overheads to bid the work. He also stated he wouldn’t be surprised if bids come in 20 percent higher than Mainscape’s current contract, which Mays suggested underestimated costs for maintaining the community’s street trees.

In other actions:

Supervisors reviewed the result of bids for repaving roads in the gated neighborhoods of Stonebridge and The Greens. Both attracted just a single bidder but the unit cost (milling and paving per yard) in Stonebridge came in higher than in The Greens, a far larger project. Supervisors requested staff go back to the bidder to see if the company will use the same lower unit cost in Stonebridge and check with past paving costs to see if the single bid is comparable.

Field Supervisor Mays asked supervisors how to handle issues related to a for-profit fitness instructor suspected of using Baybridge Park for personal training classes and an organized U8 soccer team’s regular use of Glencliff Park’s fields without an agreement with the district and proof of insurance. While supervisors made no formal motions on the matter, Mays was instructed to notify the instructor that for-profit classes could not be conducted in the park and to treat organized teams with coaches who conduct drills and practices differently than pick-up games by residents.

Asked in March to produce a recommended list of uses for a difficult-to-access 5.5-acre piece of land lying between Stonebridge and The Vineyards, CDD Engineer Tonja Steward informed supervisors that, regardless of use, the district would have to seek rezoning of the property, which is currently zoned for townhomes. Supervisors, however, asked staff to instead clarify access issues and potential parking with both TECO and Hillsborough School District prior to proceeding with rezoning or any construction plans. CDD Supervisor Brian Zeigler, however, emphasized that supervisors would benefit by asking residents what their preferred uses of the land included.

Supervisors unanimously passed a motion authorizing the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections to include the district’s upcoming biannual elections on the November general election ballot. In November the seats of CDD Chair Mark Ragusa and Supervisor Greg Chesney will be up for election. The five supervisors are elected to four-year terms in even years with two seats chosen in one election and three in the election two years after. Residents interested in running should contact the Supervisor of Elections office to determine deadlines and procedures for qualifying for the ballot.

After discussing the growing use of event and program banners in the Linebaugh median, supervisors requested staff research the district’s banner policy for their review in May. In the interim, a motion authorizing the Westchase Rotary to post a banner advertising their Cinco de Mayo Pub Crawl died for lack of a second.

Supervisors heard from Joe Odda, chair of the Westchase Community Association's (WCA) Dog Park Task Force, that a parcel of land adjacent to the UTB Regional Library and under consideration for a dog park, was now in question as library officials insisted the land belonged to the library board rather than to the county. Odda stated he was researching the matter further.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:17 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher


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