The City of Peculiar has been struggling with decisions regarding Raisbeck Park for some time now. At the last Board of Aldermen meeting on February 18 allowed for plenty more conversation.
The big discussion in the meeting took place over the current state of Raisbeck Park and the decisions that must be made to make soccer an option there in the fall.
Discussions about how to handle the park began some fourteen months ago as Park Director Nathan Musteen collaborated with the City’s volunteer Park Board. In December of 2012 it was decided that Raisbeck Park would feature a soccer complex.
Deliberation over the issues caused delays in the process, further causing the City to miss deadlines for submitting requests in preparation for soccer in the fall of 2013. Since then, construction to get the field into proper form has been delayed.
At the February 18 meeting, the friction between the Park Board and the Board of Aldermen came to a head yet again before it was decided that the first step could begin.
It all started with a simple resolution for Mayor Ernie Jungmeyer to enter into an agreement with Cobra Contracting for grading the fields at Raisbeck Park, leveling the terrain for the use of soccer.
After Director Musteen presented the resolution’s details, Kelsey McCray, a member of the Peculiar Park Board, stood up to share with the Aldermen an issue she has with the contract.
“I’m here tonight because I feel that we, as a Park Board, need more direction from the Board of Aldermen,” she said.
McCray stated that her concern was the commencement of construction without knowing the full price of the project.
“I am now of the opinion…that we are best served if we come into this as a whole knowing exactly what the price is going to be for the first phase of this project – including the fees we’ll be paying for Land3.”
Land3 is the landscaping architecture company which the City of Peculiar partnered with in July 2013 to develop a master plan for the future use of Raisbeck Park.
“In January, the City of Peculiar issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Raisbeck Park Grading Improvements. The work as advertised generally consisted of clearing, erosion control, grading, grassing and establishment and related improvements to Raisbeck Park,” the resolution memorandum reads.
On Monday, February 10, 2014, the Park Board voted 5-1 in favor of Cobra Contracting’s bid, suggesting that the mayor enter into an agreement with that company.
McCray stated that she voted in favor of suggesting that the City work with Cobra Contracting, but that at the time of the vote she did not realize that there was a piece of the contract missing.
“After the meeting I realized that we were not presented with a piece of the contract. Our contract with Land3, in my opinion, was for the first phase of the design [of the field],” McCray said. “We’re now moving into the construction phase and I do not understand how we can move into this next phase without knowing the entire price of the project.”
The “entire price” that McCray stated she wished to know includes the price for the construction oversight that Land3 would provide during the grading of the soccer field. This is a price that Nathan Musteen did not have available at the Park Board meeting where five Board members, including McCray, decided that the City should grade the field.
City Administrator Brad Ratliff defended Musteen, saying that an e-mail sent out by McCray concerning this issue was answered by Musteen himself along with other Park Board members, including President Andrew Boston. The response of the Park Board members, according to Ratliff, was that construction needed to begin and that was the top priority.
“The majority of the Park Board did tell Nathan to move forward,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff also called McCray’s appearance at the Board of Aldermen meeting “awkward,” as it put Musteen in a difficult situation.
Musteen admitted his lack of preparedness and noted that in order to be better he must learn from his mistakes. He also stated that he will collaborate with City Engineer Carl Brooks and City Planner Cliff McDonald more in the future.
Homer Dunsworth spoke to this situation by reiterating his belief that the Park Board should be dissolved by the Board of Aldermen in order to eliminate what he believes is a lack of efficiency.
“We came up with this a year ago last December and we’re still talking about it,” said Dunsworth. “And you can split them (sic) hairs any way you want, but there still ain’t (sic) nothing getting done.”
Holly Stark, on the other hand, openly disagrees with Dunsworth and at times the interaction between the two became heated in the meeting.
“There has been a lot of talk that the Park Board has been the reason why all these projects have been slowed down,” Stark said while addressing Musteen. “Why was the negotiation with Land3 for their cost of the construction [put off] until after the project was bid to even come forward? I don’t think it’s fair that everybody always blame the Park Board. I feel like Nathan, that was your responsibility to stay on top of that and be out ahead of this. I mean, that’s why we hired a Parks Director.”
“My point is not that I want to see it stopped or not move forward. My point is that we should learn from this experience, not wait until after the fact to try to negotiate something,” the Alderman noted later.
The Board eventually passed the resolution unanimously.
Musteen said that the construction would be over and the grass all sown by May 15 in preparation for the growing season. With limited irrigation, the grass will be covered with straw and hay in order to aid its growth.
Mayor Jungmeyer closed the discussion on the topic by stating to Musteen, “The sooner you can get them going on this, the better.”