Mar 16 2014

How Should Piedmont Use $500,000 in Park Bond Funds?

Piedmont is entitled to receive approximately $500,000 in East Bay Regional Park District bond funds.  The funds originate from the approval in 2008 of Bond Measure WW.

To date, the Council has made no decision on how to spend the $500,000 available to Piedmont; however, the Council moved toward using the funds to renovate Hampton Field.

In 2011 the City Council expressed an interest in using the WW bond money to add lights to Coaches Field.  With the Coaches Field /Blair Park sports project no longer under Council consideration, the bond funds are being considered for another project.

Some previously mentioned uses for all or part of the $500,000 bond funds are: improvements to the Piedmont pool, a senior center in the Arts Center, Hampton Field renovation, implementation of the Blair Park improvement plan, access to Blair Park, and expansion of Coaches Field.

Hampton Field renovation design moves forward.

The Hampton Field Master Plan was approved by the Council in 2008. Drainage has been a problem at Hampton Field since the original construction in the late 1980’s, causing sand drifts onto the tennis courts and large open cracks in the court surface that present hazardous conditions for players. The grass playfield, used primarily for softball and youth soccer, becomes wet and soggy during rainy weather, requiring the field to be frequently closed to play.  Sod replacement has been an ongoing maintenance expense of approximately $25,000 per year. During heavy rains, sand and gravel are dumped onto a nearby street creating maintenance problems and a safety hazard.

At the March 3, 2014 City Council meeting, the Council voted to spend $135,238 toward construction drawings for implementation of the Master Plan for Hampton Field.  The project had been set aside during the economic downturn and emphasis on the Moraga Avenue/Blair Park sports complex.

Primary to the Hampton Field discussion was the staffs’ position that the project had already been approved and was not a new project. The current budget includes funding for the construction drawings. Public Works Director Chester Nakahara informed the Council that current estimates to complete the project  are approximately $2 million.

Hampton Field tennis courts showing cracks in 2011.

Council member Tim Rood inquired about compliance with the Council’s recently approved Risk Management Policy requiring assessment of proposed projects costing over $300,000.  Staff and some Council members indicated the Policy was not applicable because the project had already been approved. Nakahara indicated the Policy would be applied prior to final approval by the Council.

Rood questioned if the construction design contract had been reviewed by the City Attorney.  Mayor Margaret Fujioka explained that all contracts are and have been reviewed by a City Attorney for indemnification over the last 6 years.

Rood also wanted to know if the construction documents would allow phased implementation based on available funds.  Nakahara stated they would, but discouraged the approach stating the entire project needed to be implemented and a piecemeal approach would cost more and delay needed improvements.

Rood asked about the geo-technical soil testing. Harris indicated the projected depth of construction work to be 3 to 4 feet. Hampton Field was part of the Piedmont Hills Underground Utility District where rock discovered after construction work began cost Piedmonters rather than the District beneficiaries over $2 million.

Vice Mayor Jeff Weiler noted there is $2 million in the City’s General Fund Reserves available to fund the project. Council member Bob McBain emphasized the need to correct the drainage problems in the outfield and the drifting of gravel and sand onto the street.  Council member Teddy King favored the project based on her Recreation Commission experience.

The approved Hampton Field Master Plan calls for the softball field to be constructed with an artificial turf infield and a natural turf outfield. When Rood asked where this hybrid plan might be viewed at an existing park, William Harris of Harris Design stated the previous Recreation Director favored this design, but he did not know where this concept could be viewed. He indicated that changing the plan from a hybrid design to all artificial or all natural turf was a legal question.

Student observer Nick Docter asked if there was a possibility of expanding the grass play area at Hampton to meet identified needs. The staff response was that expansion was not a part of this project.

According to Mayor Fujioka, public hearings will be held on the one time expenditure of the WW bond funds; the cost of the Hampton project is needed at the time of the hearings.  The funds must be expended by 2018.

No mention was made of using the $500,000 for any alternative projects and no plans appear to be available for other projects, except the approved renovation plans for Blair Park.

The vote approving the contract for Hampton Field construction documents was 4 to 1 with Rood voting no.

4 Responses to “How Should Piedmont Use $500,000 in Park Bond Funds?”

  1. Until you have construction drawings and then contractor bids, the $2MM cost is a preliminary estimate. It could easily end up over $2.5MM.

    Why did Rood vote no on preparing the construction drawings which are required to find out the real cost?

  2. Mr. Follick, I hope you had a chance to watch the tape of the meeting. I voted “no” because no funding for the Hampton project has been identified. Full, 100% construction documents are not needed to know that over $1m in funding is needed before the project can proceed. The previous professional estimate based on schematic designs done by the landscape architect in 2009 was $1.4m, and staff says that cost has likely gone up by several hundred thousand. There is only $500k in Measure WW funds, which have not been allocated to this or any other project. No public hearings have ever been held on the use of the Measure WW funds.

  3. Is Mr. Rood the only Council person concerned about good faith estimates of cost?

    Considering the millions lost on the Piedmont Hills Undergrounding project, the Crest Road giveaway and taxpayer cost of the failed Blair Park project, I am disappointed that some Council and staff members wish to exempt any rebuild of Hampton field based on a thin technicality that prudent risk management is not applicable. At some point common sense will hopefully prevail at City Hall.

    Mayor Fujioka’s point of an inclusive process to determine the use of the Measure WW funds is well taken and needed. Hopefully this process will not just be “window dressing” for an already done deal as the Blair Park Sports Complex was.

  4. Your question on how the funds should be used is the point here . It is a question that should be put before the community with adequate lead time so all proposals can be considered equally. The funds are available for a period of 10 years; yet for 6 years no hearings have been held. Scheduling several hearings at Recreation that span a year would seem to give adequate time. Two key criteria for any proposal are how does it increase the hours of use and field space of recreational facilities in piedmont and who will fundraise for it.

    If Hampton is a project at this stage, then it needs to comply with the new Risk Management Policy, regardless of when it was initiated. Staff repeatedly said it was applying the policy to all projects. Staff needs to prepare a determination of balance regarding funding for the project and identify all potential risks. These assessments need to be presented to the city administrator and to council. These are simply procedural requirements of the new RTP and have nothing to do with the merits or likelihood of funding of the Hampton project. Given the identification of bedrock in this section of town, the original design should be evaluated by the city engineer to determine whether it will fix the drainage problem at the field. A basis for the new cost estimate should be provided as well.

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