Expensive bids halt Wesley Chapel park

WESLEY CHAPEL – Progress for Wesley Chapel’s future park, Dogwood Park, recently reached a standstill as bids for the project came in significantly over budget.

Since March 2012, volunteers of all ages have showed up at the site of Wesley Chapel’s future park to clear debris, dig trenches along trails and ready the property for construction.

Dogwood Park will be the village’s first municipal park, built on 22.6 acres located at the intersection of Weddington and Lester Davis roads. The park has been on the radar for several years, during which the village finalized the land purchase and secured a $500,000 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant, a $100,000 water resources grant and a $5,000 trails grant to be put toward the project.

Village Administrator Cheryl Bennett said Wesley Chapel had set aside about $419,000 for Dogwood Park’s construction. But as a handful of bids came in last month, the lowest offer was around $700,000.

“All of the bids came in way over budget,” Bennett said. “(Town officials) are meeting with the low bidder to talk through things and see what the strategy will be for making (construction costs) cheaper.”

Mayor Pro Tem Kim Ormiston said as the town’s parks and recreation committee negotiates with United Construction, who wants $696,000 for the project, they’re asking the contractor to put together a “shopping list” of changes that might reduce construction costs. Once committee members receive the list, they’ll approach the village council with their recommendation.

But Ormiston said getting costs down might be difficult. Because part of the park is being funded through the PARTF grant, the village is required to provide certain amenities – walking trails, restrooms of some sort, a fishing pier and an open field.

The topography of the area also affects construction costs. Ormiston said it’s a possibility the low bidder would want to put in more fill once the land is graded. Another cost factor is any lighting, water or sewer lines that will have to be buried and how deep they’ll have to go, which hasn’t been determined yet.

Ormiston said town officials have a little legroom to work with if the project is still over budget, as the village could draw from some funds set aside for park projects that can’t be used until the park is constructed. But it’s still not enough, she said.

“There’s a little bit of flexibility, but not nearly enough to cover the difference or even meet in between,” she said. “We have some funds to work with, but not much.” She added it’s possible the village may have to rebid the project if the negotiation doesn’t have the outcome the village desires.

The first phase of the project also calls for an amphitheater built to seat about 200, the widening of the park’s entrance and a paved parking area. Picnic shelters and a small playground are planned for the park’s second phase.

Wesley Chapel also is in the process of bidding out the renovation of a house located on the park property. Ormiston said the village would like to turn the building’s garage into a facility that could house restrooms, but that depends on the cost. If renovation is too expensive, the park will house temporary restrooms until the funds for a permanent facility are available.

Ormiston said the village is hoping to renovate the rest of the house so it can be used as a public building. She said the village would like to turn the building into a community center with rooms where groups could hold meetings and classes.

Plans also include a reading library, where children’s educational classes and story time for kids could be held, she said.

Since March 2012, the village has held a number of volunteer days on Saturdays and Sundays in which groups and individual citizens came out to the park property to help ready the area for construction by clearing brush and debris, digging trenches alongside the trails and other tasks. The village plans to host one final park volunteer day to get some last-minute work done before construction starts, although a date hasn’t been set yet.

Ormiston said the volunteer days have been a huge success. The village has seen as many as 50 people on one workday, and even the slower days have seen at least 10 volunteers, she said.

“We’ve had several volunteer groups reach out asking what can they can do, so we hope to have one more volunteer day,” Ormiston said. “We’ve had a lot of repeat volunteers. They seem so excited to be part of our community.”

A groundbreaking date for the park was set for next week, but has been postponed until further notice. Ormiston said the village will set a new date as it moves closer to approving a

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