STICKER SHOCK? City leaders have spirited debate about the future of harbor park

Matt Algarin
Renderings of the proposed Royal Melvin Park date back to 2009.

Tempers flared a bit during Monday night's Community Redevelopment Agency Board meeting as city leaders pondered scaling back a proposed harborfront park.

At one point, Councilman Larry Williges became visibly upset with fellow Councilwoman Sandy Trammell, saying "whoa, whoa, you take it easy with me lady," after Trammell had said "no, no, no" while responding to a question.

"You be nice with me and I'll be nice with you," Williges said.

The CRA Board was tasked with making a decision on whether or not to spend $29,400 with Tetra Tech for services and design work associated with Royal Melvin Heritage Park. The funding would pay for pre-application permitting, a schematic concept update and half of the costs of stakeholder and project updates and reviews.

To see a video of the proposed park, CLICK HERE.

To see a Log graphic of the proposed park, CLICK HERE.

To see Tetra Tech renderings of the proposed project, CLICK HERE.

The current scope of work, according to Tetra Tech's Michael Bomar, is based on a 2009 plan that had the city spending between $2.8 million and $3.5 million for improvements on the waterfront park.

"This proposal was based on the four-plus-years-ago design that the public and the CRA had endorsed,” Bomar said.

Both Williges and Councilman Tuffy Dixon were opposed to the multi-million dollar price tag that was part of the initial design of the park, which was purchased in 2006 with the help of a $2.3 million Florida Forever grant. The City Council took out a $3.45 million loan in 2006 to buy the land. The total purchase price was $4.6 million.

"I just don't see how we can continue to go down this road of indebtedness," Dixon told his colleagues. "I'll never vote for it. There is a lot of stuff I think we can do with this project in-house; I know we have the skill level."

For Williges, the $2.8 million was "off the radar."

"I was looking for something modest... I don't know if we need gold-plated knobs or anything," he said. "I think the taxpayer, once they get wind of this, are going to go off like rockets; or I think they would."

As part of the city's grant requirements, City Manager Maryann Ustick said the city is required to meet certain criteria for the park, but they did have some wiggle room to negotiate. She said the city staff and Tetra Tech would bring back some "realistic concepts" for city leaders to review.

Councilman Jim Bagby said the city basically has two options: They could either work off of the schematic that already exists or they could start with a blank piece of paper. But, if the city decided to start anew, they would incur additional costs that have already been incurred to this point.

"We ought to get an updated plan," he said. "Anything that moves this forward and gets us to change the plan to represent our feelings, we ought to do."

"We have to get something on paper that we can give to people," he added, noting the potential for NRDA or Restore Act funds after the 2010 BP oil spill. "Right now we are not competitive; we are not competitive for jack, and that makes me sad."

Despite the spirited debate, when it came time to vote on the $29,400 required to move the project forward, Councilman Cyron Marler's motion passed 4-1, with Dixon voting against. Councilmen Jim Foreman and Jim Wood were not in attendance.

To read a play-by-play from Monday night's meeting, CLICK HERE.