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Westchase CDD Opens Negotiations for Two New Cell Towers

The Sept. 10 meeting of the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) saw supervisors review bids for two Westchase cell towers and move forward with negotiations with Vertex, a tower constructing and leasing company.

Reviewing the three bids they received from Vertex, CTG and Diamond Tower Group, supervisors discussed the bids with Ken Schmidt of Steel in the Air, a cell tower consultant they hired to oversee the bid. Supervisor Brian Ross expressed concerns about the current lease language and requested it contain provisions that allow the district to step in and take ownership of the towers to ensure their continued service should the selected company go bankrupt. Supervisors also wanted the project’s bond funds to finance either the removal of a defunct tower or defray the costs of seeking a company to make them work in the event of nonperformance. Schmidt stated that Ross’ request should be acceptable. provided the lease protected the company lender’s rights to exercise a cure prior to the district asserting ownership.

Schmidt stated that the lease for both towers would likely run 20 years. While each company bid each of the two towers separately, Schmidt advised supervisors to accept the separate tower leases from the same company. One of the towers would be located in the back of Glencliff Park’s southern parking lot. The other would be placed along the TECO easement on district-owned land behind the Maureen Gauzza Public Library.

Supervisors ultimately passed a motion 5-0 to rank Vertex first among the bidders, which will open negotiations with the firm. In its response to the district’s RFP, Vertex proposed a flagpole type cell tower, with Vertex paying the district $21,000 annually for each tower (holding a single tenant) with a two percent annual increase. Vertex also stated it would increase the lease $6,000 annually for each new cell company tenant that installs an antenna on the tower, with its proposed lease schedule projecting additions in the second, fourth and fifth years. With approval of Vertex, final negotiations under Schmidt and CDD Attorney Erin McCormick will start with Vertex.

Vertex’s sample construction schedule has the new cell towers coming online in December 2020.

Making her legal report, McCormick stated she had reviewed the district’s contract with their new engineering firm, JMT Engineering, and the contract was ready for Chair Jim Mills’ signature. McCormick added that she had submitted a zoning request to Hillsborough County for the Promise Lane property (lying between Stonebridge and The Vineyards) to determine if the district could create a community garden and district nursery there. She said she should have a response by November’s meeting.

CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated that staff spoke with homeowners along Promise Lane, which is a privately owned road adjacent to the land and that homeowners seemed open to discussing permitting the district access to the land along the road. “But,” she added, “they would really like to know our intent for the property.”

She added one homeowner also expressed concern about the very long white vinyl fence the district was considering erecting along the road. Field Manager Doug Mays stated, “It was one of the things that he said might persuade him in favor of it [granting the district access]—not having the fence.”

Mays added that the homeowner’s opposition to the fence likely was the result of his wanting to access the parcel. He added that fence could be set back from the road but that a fence would still be needed to protect the garden and nursery from potential trespassers.

Mills asked CDD staff to wait for the zoning determination before approaching the Promise Lane homeowners about access.

After District Manager Mendenhall stated he had completed staff reviews and offered significant praise for Field Manager Doug Mays, Supervisor Greg Chesney made recommendations for changes to staff compensation for the coming year. He pitched a cost of living increase to the compensation for Whyte and Mays, who he stated were paid at the upper end of their salary ranges, and increases of 6.6-7.1 percent for other staff. Addressing the district’s retirement plan shift, Chesney stated that staff already contributes more than the two percent the district pays into their retirement plan and, under the new 501K plan, he recommended the district instead agree to match staff’s contributions up to six percent. Third, Chesney recommended holiday bonuses remain unchanged from last year but, citing a lack of extraordinary circumstances this year along the retirement plan increase, suggested lowering performance bonuses, totaling $7,000 across all four employees. Chesney’s recommendations were approved 5-0.

Supervisors briefly heard from Davey’ Landscaping’s Manuel Nasser, who discussed the implementation of the district’s street tree plan. Supervisor Forrest Baumhover also inquired with Field Supervisor Mays about the number of trees that were installed just prior to the formation of the plan and which are now not compliant with it. Mays stated that there were roughly 10 street trees (most are located in Kingsford, although Supervisor Greg Chesney identified another in The Bridges) and costs for replacement were $500 each. After discussing the best approach, supervisors asked Mays to approach the homeowners with the plan’s street tree options for street tree canopy neighborhoods—these include a crepe myrtle, a magnolia, a Cathedral oak with a root barrier or no tree—and ask them if they would be willing to choose one. If a homeowner declines, the board decided to leave the existing non-compliant palm in place.

Closing major action, supervisors approved a $1,214 bid from Davey Landscaping to identify the location of district owned irrigation valves in West Park Village. Office Manager Sonny Whyte stated they would like to use the information to incorporate the valves location on the district GIS map, allowing future irrigation workers to locate them quickly. Supervisors agreed to the West Park Village test and, if successfully mapped, will then map the entire community’s irrigation system. Supervisor Chesney suggested staff complete the mapping before a new landscaping company is potentially brought on next year following bids.

In other actions:

Supervisors unanimously approved their meeting schedule for the next fiscal year, beginning in October.

Supervisors unanimously approved adopting an insurance proposal from Egis, a change from their current insurance company, at the recommendation of District Manager Andy Mendenhall. The change, subject to Mendenhall confirming coverage of the off-duty deputy patrol and exploring cyber coverage, will save the district 5.4 percent over the current policy.

Supervisors also approved the renewal of staff’s healthcare contracts with United Healthcare, which saw a 5.4 percent increase.

Supervisors voted to replace two district 2008 pickup trucks with 160,000 miles with two new trucks costing roughly $24,000 each with trade-in.

Supervisors approved the installation of a nanobubbler to improve the health of the pond along Countryway Boulevard near the fire station for $12,375. The equipment has a three-year warranty.

Supervisors unanimously approved an $8,800 bid to repaint Harbor Links/The Estates’ 129 street signs and stop signs. Field Supervisor Mays stated he would coordinate with the neighborhood voting member and residents regarding the shutting off of reclaimed water in areas being repainted.

Field Supervisor Mays stated that due to its age and continuing maintenance issues, he would seek bids for the reconstruction of the canal pedestrian bridge between West Park Village and Village Green with the goal of replacing it with a metal support structure and composite plastic planks like the Radcliffe pond bridge. Given its cost, Mays stated he expected it would be an item included in the 2021 budget, effective October of 2020.

Supervisors adjourned at 6:05 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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