The July 7 meeting of the Westchase CDD, held via Zoom, saw supervisors move forward on narrowing their list of qualified bidders for the district’s largest contract and hint at a possible revitalization of the West Park Village fountain area.
The meeting also saw attendance by Jim Wimsatt of Radcliffe, the sole district resident to file for CDD Chair Jim Mills’ open seat. Wimsatt was recognized by Mills, who is retiring, for joining the board in the fall along with incumbents Brian Ross and Matt Lewis, who also won automatic reelection in November as the only candidates to file for their seats. “Congratulations, Jim,” said Mills at the meeting’s conclusion, adding, “Brian and Matt, welcome back.”
Opening with audience comments, Bennington Voting Member (VM) Russ Crooks requested that the board consider lighting Westchase fountains pink in recognition of breast cancer in October.
“Last August the VMs voted that during October, we illuminate the fountains in Westchase pink. I understand you all considered it…and decided against it,” said Crooks, who recalled that the board cited the program’s cost. “There are a number of residents on my street alone who have had breast cancer. We have people willing to come up with the money, collect the money and donate it.” Crooks added, “I appreciate your considering this.”
The Westchase Community Development District (CDD) is a separate legal entity from the Westchase Community Association (WCA) and so any votes taken by the Board of Directors or VMs, while offering a suggestion, have no binding force on the district.
CDD Chair Jim Mills observed, “My recollection is it was less about the cost of doing it.” Mills added, “No one on this call would disagree with the spirit of what you’re trying to do.” Mills, however, cautioned about the precedent it would set. “Once we’ve approved one, we’re hard pressed to not go down the road and approve every request.”
CDD Attorney Erin McCormick cited the unusual nature of having residents make donations to cover its costs. “We would typically allocate the funds from our budget if we wanted to do this,” she stated. “It is not what we’ve commonly done to let our facilities used by private organizations for things like that.”
CDD Chair Greg Chesney also cautioned about precedent and cost. “I like the idea of it but can see how it can get out of hand quickly.” He added that the company maintaining the fountain only comes out quarterly and additional visits present additional costs.
While Supervisor Matt Lewis suggested swapping the fountain lights for LEDs whose colors could be easily changed by staff, Field Manager Doug Mays stated that the different colors were produced by lenses rather than lights, stating that each change costs the district $250.
“Let’s do a little more research on this,” concluded Mills, “and we’ll put this on the agenda for next month.”
CDD Engineer Robert Dvorak stated that TECO had approved an access easement to landlocked district-owned land just north of the large like beside Westchase Elementary School. The easement would permit CDD staff to access the land. He stated TECO would meet district staff and a contractor on July 22 to go over safety requirements for an access road.
Attorney McCormick stated she had reached out to TECO and requested information on appealing the decision to also permit resident access to the parcel to enable its development into a community garden. She advised waiting until the staff access agreement was finalized before pressing the issue, adding that if TECO declined the board could assert rights in court not to be landlocked. McCormick also stated she was working on a new contact in the Hillsborough Planning Commission to move forward with any changes needed to permit the parcel’s use as a garden.
Dvorak concluded his report by stating he was working with Mays to develop a project to address the regular creek flooding that affects Rubury Place in Bennington. “There may be some type of project that we can do in that area to be able to help,” said Dvorak, who stated he would try to have a plan for August’s meeting.
Turning to the bid process for the district’s largest contract – the landscaping of Westchase’s common areas, District Manager Andy Mendenhall stated, “During past month we’ve gone through process of prequalification.”
Mendenhall stated that he, Field Manager Mays, Office Manager Sonny Whyte and Paul Woods of OLM (who was hired to oversee the bid process) reviewed bid responses. He stated there were 23 companies that requested the bid packet and 13 potential bidders that completed it. He stated the landscaping bid committee identified eight as qualified to do the work and excluded five. “We did have a fair amount of them that were outside the immediate region,” said Mendenhall, adding that some did not fill out important information on the prequalification form.
With Supervisor Forrest Baumhover asking for the rationale behind the sorting process, Woods stated they had explored companies’ landscaping certifications and training, management, financial resources insurance coverage, their present ability to manage property, past and current record with similarly sized projects, volume of work, their history of terminations, use of subcontractors, ability to equip and hire for the Westchase job and their familiarity with OLM’s review process, which awards a portion of the contract’s payment each month based on passing a graded inspection.
He stated that those disqualified had either no Tampa presence, no local references, no experience handling CDD contracts or they were relatively new in the market.
After a lengthy discussion, supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Chesney to move forward with accepting bids from the eight prequalified companies. Once opened, the district will be required to accept the lowest reasonable bid. Supervisors will then award the bid in September.
In anticipation of parks reopening when Hillsborough County reopens its public playgrounds, Whyte stated she had collected bids for the daily sanitizing of park restrooms and the CDD’s maintenance facility. The bids included $1,545 per month for the three park restrooms, including paper products and $550 per month for daily cleaning of the CDD offices. She added that park hand sanitizer stations would run $200-400. “We do have proposals if and when we are ready to do that,” she said.
Turning to supervisors’ requests, Supervisor Matt Lewis withdrew his request for a water fountain near the Radcliffe tunnel, citing the cost for running potable water and sewer service to the spot.
Supervisor Baumhover inquired about a collapsed county-owned storm sewer pipe in Radcliffe. “They were actually over there today looking at it,” said Mays. “I will look at it tomorrow and see where they are with that.”
Supervisor Greg Chesney stated that while waiting for the community garden, he was going to explore ideas and costs for revitalizing the area around the West Park Village fountain on Montague Street. “I thought it would be a good project to show the residents we’re doing something for the community,” he said. He committed to having a project idea in a few months.
Supervisors adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher