County Officials Discuss Proposed Crosswalk at January WCA Board Meeting

Dale Sells of Harbor Links took the floor first during audience comments to share a prepared statement regarding the RFP process. Sells stated that he had observed the process as a board member and as a resident and broke down the timeline, which began at the Feb. 2022 board meeting. He added that in the process they learned that aside from fee structures, the only change in GPI’s 16-year contract had been the addition of a part-time on-site position. He said the committee also learned GPI has services the WCA wasn’t using. “GPI didn’t offer them but then the WCA did not inquire about additional services,” he said.

He quoted an independent industry source stating the fees to an HOA from a management company would typically range from $10-$20 per unit per month depending on community size and scope of service. “If my math is correct, we are currently paying GPI just $7.04 per unit per month,” he said.

He then encouraged the board to invoke item 11 of the RFP Resolution, which states, “The Board, may, in its sole and absolute discretion, disregard the RFP process in favor of negotiations for such contracted terms as the Board determines to be in the best interest to the Association.”

“This would preserve the ‘institutional memory’ currently in place and avoid the learning curve with a new property manager…if the negotiation is not successful, an RFP can still be done,” Sells said.

Amy Hodges, co-owner of The Grind, then took the floor to express her concern with the proposed crosswalk across Linebaugh Avenue that would connect West Park Village to Westchase Elementary. She acknowledged the safety concern but felt it was a school issue and wanted to know if the school board had exhausted all their resources in addressing the issue.

Richard Hunt, 20-year resident and The Grind co-owner, said that from a resident stance, it was unclear how this would affect traffic. From a business standpoint, he had concerns about people parking in Westchase Town Center to use the crosswalk or using the parking lot as a shortcut to avoid the crosswalk, adding that he already sees both things happening. He expressed concerns that no one from the county had reached out to any of the business owners.

Yesner then called the meeting to order, and the first order of business was to present Westchase CDD Field Manager Doug Mays with the Westchase Medallion for his nearly 20 years of service to the community. Mays, who is set to retire in April, expressed his gratitude for the honor.

GAC Chair Rick Goldstein then introduced members from Hillsborough County Public Works and Commissioner Joshua Wostal, who were on hand to discuss the crosswalk.

Public Works Director of Engineering, Josh Bellotti, began by thanking Commissioner Wostal for attending the meeting. Bellotti informed the audience the county had made a large commitment to safety with a goal to make the roads safer, especially for the most vulnerable. He added that the county was made aware of some concerns for the safety of students and their parents crossing Linebaugh Avenue.

“I want to make it very clear that no project funding is in place for construction or design,” he said. “The reason I’m here is to bring it to the community’s attention at the very beginning of project development so we can work together to develop some potential concepts and alternatives that we can bring back to you to get community input.”

“If I’m understanding your comments correctly, the county is going to put in a crosswalk whether we want one or not,” Yesner said.

“We want to partner with the community to figure out the best way to get students across the road safely,” Bellotti replied. “We can’t ignore an issue where we’re seeing a safety issue with students crossing…We’re at a very conceptual level right now. We don’t want to take the stance that the county can do whatever we want and we don’t care what the community has to say because we do care what the community has to say and we do want you to be involved in what ultimately goes in there.”

A resident raised concerns with the school’s traffic flow. “Parents don’t want to deal with it, so they get in their car and leave and play frogger across Linebaugh,” she said. “People are doing this for convenience because the root issue is the school.”

“That is a good comment,” Belotti said. “We have traffic engineering staff that sits on the school board’s safety committee…I think that is a valid thing to bring up with the school to help them improve traffic circulation.”

Director Michiel Oostenbrink raised concerns about the lack of a continuous sidewalk along Westchase Drive. “There are probably more students that run immediately out of that elementary school and are put in cars’ paths,” he said.

School nurse, Tina Hall, brought up concerns that there is no continuous sidewalk from Montague to Sheldon on the south side of Linebaugh.

“How did we get skyrocketed to the top of the list when you hear about other children that have no sidewalks at all and are walking to school?” asked Chelmsford VM Joanne Maurer, who added this was a 15-year-old issue.

WPV resident Lauren Frazier said she was the one who submitted the paperwork. “I have three children that go to the school. It’s very important to us. We’re a military family, we’ve always lived in densely populated urban areas and we’ve always been able to walk to school. I did that walk for 8 months, and it didn’t make sense to me.”

Bellotti reminded the audience they had not yet identified funding. “There is a list of many, many safety needs across the county that we need to identify funding for,” he said.

“What we need to leave the room with tonight is that maybe this initial crosswalk might not be the right answer…so we can come back and can expend our resources on some other options,” Wostal added. “My staff is here, and they will continue to work with your government affairs.”

Wostal also pointed out that is easier if the community routes a unified voice up to the county. “When we get hundreds of emails that makes it more difficult. Just know we hear you. We’re going to work on multiple solutions until we find one… and then we have the next impossible hurdle to identify funds. We will continue to work hard for you, and we will continue to be responsive,” he concluded.

Goldstein thanked the county officials and continued his GAC report by making a motion to appoint Charles Stephens to the GAC committee, which passed unanimously.

Association Manager Debbie Sainz reported she still had only one quote for the WPV pool deck repair. Director Jack Maurer said there was one other company speaking with AD Engineering that meets the criteria. Facilities Manager Dwight Kilgore confirmed the second firm had inspected the area the day prior.

Maurer added that the second quote was significantly lower. The board agreed to give the second firm until Jan. 24 to submit a bid and they would hold a special meeting on Jan. 25 to vote. Maurer added that if the second firm can’t meet that timeline, the board could move forward with the initial bid.

Oostenbrink began his treasurer’s report by explaining the board’s policy on appropriated funds, stating that those funds are currently set at six months’ worth of operating expenses and that they act as a safety net.

He went on to explain that because the 2024 operating budget had increased, primarily due to insurance, payroll and legal fees, the required amount for appropriated funds had also increased and an additional $108,819.20 was needed. Those funds are typically taken from excess cash. Due to deficits in retained revenue in 2022 and 2023, current excess cash sits at $11,833.

To avoid running a deficit in excess cash, Oostenbrink proposed lowering the appropriated funds requirement, adding that the average for most communities is between 3-6 months.

He added, “It’s not the end of the world but we are at a pivotal point where it warrants the extra attention and I wanted to be sure everyone was aware of the situation.”

Oostenbrink’s motion to reduce appropriated funds to four months’ worth of expenses passed unanimously.

Yesner turned the floor over to Stephens, who serves as Covenants chair. Stephens said the committee is starting to see a pattern of facilities violations, specifically no-show violations at the courts, and they need to have a better understanding of the rules. Kilgore explained that residents set their reservation on the YourCourt website and they have a 15 minute window to show up. Kilgore added that they only mark a no show if there is a staff member on site, but later added that a resident can also mark a no show.

Boyd said there seemed to be some issues with the current system and that the swim and tennis committee can work with Kilgore to see if they can come up with a solution.

The conversation turned to the RFP process and Board Vice President Michele DelSordo thanked the committee for trying to expedite the matter. Based upon the numbers that Sells had mentioned in his earlier remarks, DelSordo said she had concerns about assessments increasing. RFP Committee Chair John Mogge replied that they wouldn’t know about potential assessment increases until they get some industry feedback.

“The view of the committee is a competitive environment and if $7-$10 per house is the right benchmark – and that is a big ‘if’ – the way our charter is written, you reserve the right to negotiate with GPI,” he explained. “The best value that is on the table right now is a list of technical services that accurately describes the services in a prioritized way …as the costs come in, you can go to an affordable level of service within that structure.”

He added, “My view from a pricing perspective is your best position is to take the new scope of work and try to negotiate with your current provider… There are a number of things I have heard over the last few months that I think the committee has addressed successfully in the technical services that will improve things for residents.”

DelSordo thanked Mogge for his feedback and for listening to her concerns. Mogge said the next step would be to conduct an industry walk on Feb. 7. The board agreed with this recommendation and Boyd took a moment to commend the RFP committee for their thorough assessment.

Regarding pool bathroom renovations, the board voted to table the issue until February when all five bids were in.

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