While November social media comments suggested many concerned Westchase residents could show up for the Dec. 3 meeting of the Westchase CDD, only one resident attended and commented on the district’s discussions about replacing community entrance signs.
WOW’s coverage of November’s meeting of the Westchase Community Development District, posted on Westchase Neighborhood News Facebook group, generated some negative feedback from readers, who reacted to the district’s discussions about undertaking two “test” replacements of Westchase entrance signs at Linebaugh and Sheldon. Receiving harshest criticism was the $26,000 price tag for two new black granite signs with gold-leaf lettering while maintaining the existing brick facades. A few readers suggested the existing signs could be sanded down and repainted for a few hundred dollars.
The current signs are high density urethane (HDU), a petroleum based product whose surface can be etched with letters. CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that replacing the signs with the same HDU material would run $11,900 per sign or $23,800 for both signs while black granite would cost $12,420 per sign ($24,840 for both). Whyte stated that granite would also have a lifespan of 20-30 years and would require occasional buffing rather than the regular repainting the HDU product has required.
When CDD Chair Jim Mills asked if there were any resident comments regarding the proposed granite sign test replacements, the sole resident attending, Dale Sells of Harbor Links, stated that, given the bids acquired and the materials, it seemed new granite signs made the most sense.
When WOW inquired why the existing signs couldn’t be simply sanded down and repainted, staff stated that the 25-year-old HDU signs themselves were delaminating and bubbling, not the paint. “The material is disintegrating,” said Field Supervisor Doug Mays.
Supervisor Brian Ross added that the sign material was so old, it had become brittle and easily breakable, even potentially posing a hazard in a high-wind storm.
Ross, however, stated that, upon further reflection over the past month, he preferred to take a different approach than using the two signs as a springboard or a test to gauge resident sentiment about tackling replacement community-wide. He stated with any big capital project, supervisors would typically invite knowledgeable professionals in to offer advice on the best materials and approaches. “It might make sense for us to have a professional,” he said.
Given the different appearances and structures of the community’s 30-40 signs (some are curved while others are flat), Ross expressed concern that they might find in bidding out the larger project that they jumped too quickly in approving the first two tests. Further, he emphasized the importance of all signs matching in appearance and materials, which may not be possible if the work is divided.
Supervisor Greg Chesney also supported pausing to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP), allowing the district to develop specifications for all the community’s signs and put them out to a formal bid process. He touted that avoiding piecemealing the job and tackling it as a proper capital improvement project would inject more sunshine into the process and ensure its legality under state bidding rules.
CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte, however, cautioned, “It would be a very, very, very expensive project to do all at once.”
Given community reaction to the $26,000 cost for two signs, Mills added that if they embraced a bigger project costing $400,000 to replace entrance signs, “we’re going to need a bigger room.”
While Supervisor Matt Lewis expressed support for the RFP approach, Supervisor Forrest Baumhover’s comments simply focused on ensuring that existing brick monument structures would remain unchanged.
Ultimately Ross’ motion to undertake a formal RFP process for all community signage passed 5-0 had the effect of pausing the replacement of signs at Linebaugh and Sheldon for now.
The district’s Dec. 3 meeting, however, opened with Engineer Rob Dvorak briefing supervisors on various projects. He stated he was working to assist staff with efforts to get TECO to bring power to a CDD lake from Promise Lane to enable the installation of a nanobubbler to address water quality issues. He briefed supervisors on the progress made to a lake bank restoration project in The Vineyards, whose work he described as being well done by the contractor. He also estimated that his firm would spend 16-20 hours on engineering plans and overseeing a bid process for the replacement of a district-owned drainage pipe that collapsed and is causing ponding of water behind Stamford homes.
Supervisors gave the OK to proceed with that drainage project.
CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she was still waiting on Hillsborough County to learn whether the county would require the district to hold another public meeting about a proposed cell tower in Glencliff Park before the county would greenlight its installation. “In light of their questions, I’m thinking they are going to want a follow up meeting with the community on the cell tower,” she stated.
CDD supervisors therefore authorized tentative notice, pending county communication, of a public meeting on Jan. 7, 2020 to address the matter. Supervisor Ross asked McCormick to ensure that Vertex, the contractor, brought to the meeting a clear description of things like its specific location, fencing and the type and appearance of the proposed cell tower.
District staff stated that their insurance company report cited some safety issues that staff quickly addressed. Supervisor Brian Ross, however, touted the report as offering overall praise for the district’s management and stated the effectiveness and professionalism of the district’s regular inspections and staff’s responsiveness to them was quite newsworthy.
In other actions:
Citing a fish kill in the large lake between Sturbridge and Stonebridge, CDD Field Manager Doug Mays stated he was exploring the use of generator to power a nanobubbler to oxygenate the lake until power could be run to the area.
CDD Attorney Erin McCormick stated she was still working with the CDD engineer to determine permit responsibility for SWFTMD required planting in the large lake between Sturbridge and Stonebridge, whose ownership was recently transferred to the district from M/I Homes.
Citing the potential for unintended fires, supervisors declined to take action to approve a residents’ request to launch Chinese lanterns from district property.
Addressing social media comments about the district’s use of pesticides, CDD staff and Supervisor Jim Mills stated that Round Up was no longer used in landscaping and the district was now using the pesticide Cheetah Pro instead. Supervisor Ross expressed dismay that one resident described district staff as unresponsive to her concerns about the issue when, he added, it has been his experience that staff is quite responsive to all resident issues. Subsequently Supervisor Forrest Baumhover referenced an email sent by the resident to all supervisors, rather than to district staff, that apparently did not receive a response. Baumhover stated he forwarded to staff to answer.
Supervisors adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher