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CDD Moves Forward with Cell Tower Behind Library; Approves Increase in Greens Gatehouse Salaries

At the Nov. 2 Westchase CDD meeting supervisors heard that Vertex, the company with which they have contracted for two possible cell towers to improve Westchase service, was moving forward with a proposed tower on CDD-owned land behind the Maureen Gauzza Library.

The meeting also saw supervisors unanimously vote to increase the wages of Greens gatehouse guards in order to keep its current Securitas staff in place. The change is expected to cost Greens homeowners approximately $100 more each year.

Opening the meeting CDD Engineer Robert Dvorak stated that he had applied to SWFTMD for a permit to address creek bank erosion behind a property on Springrose Drive. CDD Attorney Erin McCormick and he then briefed supervisors on a new state law that will require the district to identify all components of its stormwater management system, including ponds, weirs and pipes leading to street storm drains. The district would also have to project their existing lifespans and expected repairs or work needed over the next five years.

After Dvorak stated he would work with CDD staff to compile an inventory, Supervisor Brian Ross expressed surprise, given the establishment of a GFS map intended to show all district assets, that it had not yet been completed. While stating he did not intend to scold anyone, he stated, “I’m genuinely stunned we don’t know what our assets are.”

“Everyone has a plan for resurfacing their roads. No one has a plan for dredging their ponds,” responded Dorak, stating the items’ lifespans were quite long. “No one is really planning for the end game on their stormwater system.”

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated staff would begin compiling the inventory based on engineering drawings of the community and Supervisor Forrest Baumhover requested a follow up on progress before the June 2022 deadline.

McCormick then told supervisors that Vertex had requested an affidavit from the district authorizing them to proceed with a special use application with Hillsborough County for the cell tower behind the library. She stated the company hoped to submit an application by Nov. 24 in hopes of making a March 14, 2022 land use hearing’s agenda. She said Vertex had two cell carriers interested in leasing space on the tower. When asked by Supervisor Greg Chesney about whether the district had completed the necessary wetland survey, CDD Engineer Dvorak stated the survey meeting with SWFTMD was Nov. 18. McCormick added there was additional information related to questions she had for Vertex but the information landed just prior to the meeting and she had not yet reviewed it.

Supervisors ultimately voted 4-1, with Supervisor Chesney opposed, to direct McCormick to complete the affidavit after Chair Matt Lewis and she reviewed all materials and consulted with the district’s cell tower advisor, Steel in the Air.

Updating the board on a proposed Glencliff Park cell tower, McCormick stated she was preparing responses to comments received from the Hillsborough County administrator, who expressed concern that a number of Woodbay residents closest to the cell tower had expressed opposition to the tower or its location. “That’s a concern for county staff,” she said, adding she did not know if the administrator would ultimately ask the Board of County Commissioners for its approval. She added the county administrator also asked for an updated cell coverage map, which she stated she would get from Vertex. “That’s going to be real important information to justify why you’re asking for a cell tower,” she added.

After McCormick and supervisors discussed the challenges with getting residents who supported the tower to communicate their preference to the county, Supervisor Forrest Baumhover emphasized the importance of getting a vote from county commissioners to give closure to the matter and avoid repeatedly revisiting it.

Supervisors briefly touched on their October’s street tree workshop, where seven residents spoke in favor of working to keep the street tree canopy in neighborhoods where it existed and a county arborist detailed the county’s requirements for tree replacements. Ultimately supervisors embraced Chair Lewis’ recommendation that they keep with the previously announced plan to interview three arborists at the Nov. 16 workshop at the Maureen Gauzza Library at 4 p.m.

Supervisors then addressed a request from Securitas for wage increases for the Greens gate guards and their supervisor, Carmen Rios.

“There is some concern of losing some of the staff The Greens is really happy with,” said CDD Field Manager Doug Mays, who added a number of residents he spoke with regarding the requested increases told Mays they wished the district would do what it must to keep the current staff.

Stating he had a strong sense of what The Greens wanted, Greens Voting Member Jerry Pappa, also attending the meeting, stated, “The people of The Greens are very strong-willed individuals. They know what they like and they like the gatehouse and how it’s run.” Pappa had particularly strong compliments for Rios’ professionalism. While stating he wasn’t saying money wasn’t important, he did endorse a motion that the gate guards’ base rate, currently $12.50 an hour, be raised to $15 and the supervisor’s wage raised to $20. That increase would cost $50,000 annually, or roughly $100 per Greens home. Supervisors passed that motion unanimously.

Greens Gatehouse Supervisor Rios, who was present, stated, “Thank you. I love Westchase and I love my residents.”

In other actions:

Supervisors unanimously approved their audit proposal from Grau and Associates with an increase of $200 after both Supervisor Greg Chesney, who most closely oversees the district’s financials, and District Manager Andy Mendenhall both stated they were happy with Grau.

Supervisors also voted 4-1, with Supervisor Chesney opposed, to renew the district’s membership in the Florida Association of Special Districts for $2,081.91.

Supervisors unanimously passed a motion to cover all costs for the hiring of sheriff’s deputies for traffic control for the Westchase Charitable Foundation’s Santa Parade.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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