University Heights City Council special meeting highlights 7-14-2014
SPECIAL MEETING - JULY 14, 2014
- Bonds for park
- Public comments
- Architectural cost estimates
- Credit card security policy
- Computer support
- AAA Flexible Pipe Inc.
All council members were present.
Bonds for park
With one dissenting vote, council approved submitting to the electors the issuance of $1.8 million in bonds for improving the city’s park and recreational facilities by constructing and equipping a public park area and related improvements. Councilman Mark Wiseman voted no.
Mayor Susan Infeld cited a number of resident e-mails supporting the new park.
Resident Anita Kazarian criticized council for asking residents to decide the issue on the fall ballot and for writing a poorly worded resolution. She asked council to vote no on the park and leave the property as open green space as was originally implied.
Mary Ebner of South Belvoir Boulevard said she felt the city would be foolish not to make use of this green space that will benefit everyone in the community.
Resident Yanina Muzis asked council to clearly explain the costs for the entire project and suggested that residents be given options from which to choose.
Architectural cost estimates
Rachel Schwarz from Braun & Steidl presented a detailed breakdown of the estimated costs for a [park] proposal based on citizen input from five open meetings with residents, but she noted that these were not specific design drawings and were, therefore, just estimates. Residents wanted a gazebo, a play area, and accessible walking trails. Residents know they want stone and steel, but not what kind of stone or what grade of steel. The toilet building is more standardized and easier to estimate, but there are many options for such things as landscaping. Estimates were based on Braun & Steidl’s prior experience with designing parks and adjusted for projected construction costs for 2015, and included an additional amount for unforeseen contingencies. Joe Ciuni, the city’s engineer, reviewed the plans for water lines, sewers, soil condition, and the condition of the ground where the parking lot was removed.
Vice Mayor Susan Pardee asked for an explanation of site preparation and earthwork costs. Schwarz explained that utilities have to be brought into the site, excavation done for the foundation of the buildings, as well as grading of elevation changes and leveling the ground for parking and walkways. There will be at least seven more estimates to be made as the project becomes more clearly defined. Design and engineering fees are the cost to hire site designers and engineers.
Site amenities include the gazebo, which can be bought in various sizes, and two 14-by-14-foot concrete slab picnic pavilions. Lighting can be powered either by electricity or solar. There are also bike racks, trash receptacles, workout stations along the asphalt walkway, a poured rubber surface for the play area, fencing, signage for general information and for ADA compliance, and a proposed monument.
Councilman Wiseman asked about the 10 percent contingency fee added to each category of expenditure. Schwarz explained that the fees are an insurance policy against cost overruns and design changes. The line item for permits and bonds are fees paid to University Heights. This cost estimate is a snapshot of the current idea. Braun & Steidl polled the audience members at the public meeting to narrow down the list of amenities. Some options were ruled out immediately while others were weighted based on the degree of interest.
Noting the daunting cost estimate, Councilman Steven Sims asked if the work could possibly cost less than $1.8 million. He asked if the bond language could be worded as “up to $1.8 million.” He said that the city probably wouldn’t be incurring the cost of the bonds until they have a much more specific cost estimate. Could they issue bonds just for the amount needed? Finance Director Larry Heiser explained the process: if the issue was passed at the meeting it would then go to the county auditors. Once the auditors approve the amount and the calculations, the ballot issue would then come back before council. The auditors need to have the proposed plan so they can determine the accuracy of the amount of the bond. The city will only issue as many bonds as are necessary for the work, which can be less than what is stated in the resolution, but not more.
Wiseman questioned the wording of the resolution, which had been prepared by Squires Patton Boggs law firm, and asked if the funds could be used for other facilities in the city or only for the new park. Council decided that the intent of the resolution’s wording is that the quality of the recreational facilities of University Heights will all be enhanced by the addition of this new park, rather than that funds from the bond issue could be used for all facilities.
[After the meeting Wiseman explained his dissenting vote to the LWV Observer. He said he felt that [council] had insufficiently reviewed the costs. He favors the park but feels it could have waited until 2015 to allow more inquiry.]
Credit card security policy
The city has begun accepting credit card payments at Purvis Park Pool. Card companies are now implementing compliance rules that require the city to establish a credit card policy. Currently, any credit card amounts are accepted. When the pool closes for the season, the credit card reader will be transferred to the police station for payment of traffic fines, and will remain there. Larry Heiser is proposing a minimum charge of $20 or $25 at the police station because of the processing fees. The minimum fine imposed by the city is $20. The city would have to pay an annual cost to use a second credit card reader at the pool for three months, so this will probably be the only summer to accept credit card payments. The city might return to PayPal next year for the pool.
Council considered on first reading a contract with Meritech for computer support, network security and network upgrades. This will include E-Set, a personal computer security service, at a cost of $1,618 per month for a two-year term through December 2016. The staff had considered Data Core and another system; Meritech provides network security and backups. The company had a better response time, and was willing to work within the systems the city was using. The others would require major upgrades and the installation of dedicated lines. Meritech will also provide unlimited service instead of charging per hour of support. The goal is to have all 25 computers, being used in various departments, networked.
AAA Flexible Pipe Inc.
Council authorized a contract with AAA Flexible Pipe Inc. for the 2014–16 catch basin, inlet sewer cleaning and televising program at a cost of $340,680. The company will clean 350 catch basins and inspect and clean 75,000 feet of sewers. Television cameras are used to inspect the pipes. Bids were received from four vendors but AAA Flexible Pipe was the lowest and best.
LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.
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