Construction on a gateway arch entrance and new fencing outside Brookhaven Park, as well as construction on a new swimming pool at Briarwood Park, could begin this summer as part of the city’s $40 million parks bond, according to city officials.
A preliminary timeline to finish projects included in the parks bond approved by voters in November is between three to five years with plans to start construction on some of the smaller projects in six to nine months, members of the Park Bond Oversight Committee were told at their March 5 meeting.
“Bids should be on the streets before summer and we should be pushing dirt by the summer,” City Manager Christian Sigman said.
Brookhaven hired Jacobs Engineering Group for $1.22 million over five years to oversee construction of the park projects. Design changes and higher than originally estimated costs are already being planned for as more detailed work on site plans are just beginning, the committee was told.
The city also hired Clark Patterson Lee for nearly $1.19 million to complete designs for the parks approved in the bond package: Ashford, Blackburn, Briarwood, Lynwood and Murphey Candler parks. Brookhaven Park designs are being completed by Lose Design.
The City Council unanimously approved both contracts at its Feb. 26 meeting.
Representatives from both firms and city administrators met with members of the oversight committee and explained no specific timeline has been established for when projects will begin or be completed.
An architect with Clark Patterson Lee said final designs might require buildings or features having to be relocated or renovated. If sewer pipes or other infrastructure is found when construction begins, other changes may have to be made later in the game as well.
Committee member Mickey O’Brien, a Lynwood Park resident who works as a landscape architect and urban planner with AECOM, asked about what happens if major changes are made to the current park plans.
He said Lynwood Park residents were “surprised” when they learned about the new additions to the park released as part of the bond referendum package. The plans included a “lazy river,” a shallow pool that flows like a river, that were not in original master plan designs.
Jimmy Baugnon, chair of the committee, is a developer of large mixed-use communities with ECI Group who also lives in Brookhaven. He asked committee members be provided summaries of changes to parks plans.
“I’m getting questions from everybody,” he said. “Can we get a good summary of where we started, where we are now … so we can field those questions intelligently when people ask?”
Sigman said the city’s website contains information on each park and the planned projects. A community outreach plan is being established to likely include email blasts and a quarterly newsletter as well as updates to the City Council, he said.
“We’re transparent. We’ll get it there,” Sigman said. “We don’t want anyone hysterical at this early stage.”
The public illustrations, or “vision boards,” used to “sell the bond” to residents will likely be much different than the final plans the landscape architects come up with after actually looking at the parks and the surveys, Sigman added.
Sigman acknowledged there will also be “stumbles” along the way, and the city’s goal is to be transparent about major changes. However, there is no room to slow down any projects included in the bond due to the trend of increasing construction costs. A 25 percent contingency fee is built into the parks bond, but the intent, Sigman said, is to stay as close to the original budget as possible.
“We move quick here,” Sigman said. “We make decisions quickly here.”
Fee payments, conceptual phasing outline
Jacobs’ fees are being paid from the $1.25 million line-item for a project management company outlined in the bond referendum approved by voters last November. CPL’s fees are being paid out of each of the park’s approved budgets.
CPL’s fees per project: Ashford — $95,413 out of $1.94 million total budget; Blackburn — $42,781 out of $1.28 million total budget; Briarwood — $277,674 out of $7 million total budget; Lynwood — $534,403 out of nearly $11 million total budget; and Murphey Candler — $560,021 out of $8.99 total budget.
Jennifer Harper of CPL lives in Brookhaven and told committee members she was part of creating the city when it was founded in 2012. She said her children play at all the city parks and her company is invested in Brookhaven’s park system and doing its job within budget.
Some of the first projects expected to be completed include adding a splash pad and perimeter fencing at Ashford Park, renovating the parking area at Blackburn Park, and constructing multi-use trails at the ballfields at Murphey Candler Park. Lee Croy, project manager for Jacobs, said completing all projects within 36 to 48 months is the preliminary timeline.
Fencing along Peachtree Road for Brookhaven Park, including a gateway arch entrance, is nearing design completion and an RFP for the project should be ready in three months with construction slated to begin this fall, Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden told the committee members.
Bids for dredging Murphey Candler Lake, approved at $1 million in the parks bond as part of the Nancy Creek Watershed Improvement Plan, are currently under review. Sigman is recommending the dredging, construction of a boardwalk at the park and bank stabilization also included in the bond, be completed together. Obtaining permits from the state Environmental Protection Division to conduct work in the lake is proving difficult, however, he said. When a permit will be granted to begin dredging and other lake work is not yet known.
Plans to build the new pool at Briarwood Park is slated to begin in September, after Labor Day weekend, with plans to complete it to be open in May 2020, in time for Memorial Day weekend. RFPs for the pool will be issued separately than the other renovations planned for the park as part of the bond because total costs are already expected to go over the original estimate, Sigman told the committee.
Lynwood Park’s pool will remain open while the Briarwood Park pool is under construction, Sigman said. Lynwood Park’s pool and other aquatics features planned, including a lazy river, lap pool and splash pad, would not begin until after Labor Day 2020, Sigman said.
A new community center at Murphey Candler Park will include community meetings held in the fall to gather public input on architectural designs, Sigman added.
CPL staff will also work to “value engineer” the restroom and pavilion designs that were previously approved by the council. Some residents and members of the Parks and Recreation Coalition (PARC) of Brookhaven who opposed the parks bond raised concerns about the current cost estimates for those features coming in at $280,000 for a pavilion and $390,000 for restrooms.
The park bond was approved with 60 percent of the vote in what many considered a landmark decision for the city. A Yes for Brookhaven Parks campaign raised more than $27,000 and spent more than $13,000 to pay for a consultant, yard signs, mailers and other informational materials to urge voters to approve the bond.
But an organized opposition effort surfaced in the final days of the campaign, with an anonymous mailer sent to homeowners calling the parks bond a “boondoggle” and an anonymous website urging residents to vote no. Four members of the Parks and Recreation Coalition of Brookhaven who served on an ad hoc funding task force to come with a list of projects for the parks bond spoke out against the bond as well. The questioned the amount of the bond as well as the process city officials used to determine what projects would be included.
Steve Peters is the new president of PARC and was one of the members to publicly oppose the park bond. He attended the March 5 oversight committee meeting and said he was impressed with the officials with Jacobs and CPL. He said he was also pleased to hear the public will be informed on major issues that may arise as well as the city’s response to find ways to cut costs on the “high dollar” bathrooms and pavilions.
“I didn’t agree with the parks bond, but the people have spoken,” he said. “I also want to see the parks improved and have it done in a cost-effective way.”
Finding a way to track major changes and inform the public was also important, Peters said.
“They are conscience of the need for a smooth and functioning way of gathering information to give to the public and that is such a relief that is playing out,” he said.
Baugnon, elected chair of the oversight committee at the March 5 meeting, said the role of the committee is to make sure residents get what they said they wanted.
“We are going to make sure the city gets what they voted for and on budget,” he said. “We don’t want to go over budget.”