The Spark

Improvements

October 09, 2009 3:16 AM | Jeremy Kareken (Administrator)

Dear Park Members:

Following the last meeting of the Park’s Board, we believed it was a good time to bring the members up to date on the progress of the drainage and sewer project, and how it may affect enjoyment of the park when the weather turns warm.

The target date for work to begin in the park is Feb. 2, at which time the park will be closed to members. The project is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks. We are hoping to re-open on or about the first of April. We will certainly keep everyone informed on any changes to the current schedule.

The fall-out from the construction most affecting members is the ball field. As park members have seen, it’s the area where large puddles accumulate even with the smallest of rainfall. This makes the field unusable for periods of time, jeopardizing an earlier investment made to improve the park. In order to address the problem, areas of the field will be dug up to lay new pipes and install dry wells. Once complete, the ball field would likely not be ready for use until the middle of May to allow for the grass to recover.

As much as it saddened us to do so, we’ve already informed sports leagues that typically use the ball field in April it will not be ready for their use. However, we need to assure proper recovery of the grass so we’re not incurring time and expense to redo the field come fall. Other groups and events might also be impacted; we will keep park members informed via e-mail and on the park website as we progress with project.

We realize it isn’t easy for any of us. But making improvements on the park’s drainage and sewer system has been long in coming, and it surely would have been painful at any point in the park’s history. We need to repair broken sewer lines that are leeching into the garden areas and we need to prevent flooding and standing water in the park play areas and further degradation of our facilities – our bills for what were basically Band-Aid sewer repairs reached five figures last year alone. We need to bring our facilities up to city code and improve the park for the long-term benefit of our current and future park members.

When the work is complete, the park will have not only a sorely needed new drainage system, but great improvements in the play areas, landscaping and ground surfaces that will make the park more enjoyable for all members and keep the park looking its best.

If any park members have further questions on the project, feel free to contact your zone representative on the park board. If unsure who your zone rep is, contact Penny at the park office. As always, park members can also contact park President Roger Hitts atroghitts@aol.com and he will respond promptly.

The park board would like to thank Ciaran Staunton, Joe O’Sullivan and Rayna Huber Erlich for the long volunteer hours they have dedicated to this project. They’re helping to make the park a better place for every member.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHY IS THIS PROJECT BEING UNDERTAKEN AT THIS TIME?

Over the past two years, park members have faced significant flooding issues following any reasonable rainfall, the backup of the pipes whenever the sprinkler was running on a hot day and health risks brought about by severely damaged sewer pipes leading from the bathrooms. In addition, there have been calls from members to upgrade the park’s facilities including new equipment in the lowers, a bike track to minimize accidents on the blacktop and fixing cracks in the blacktop among other items.

The Park’s Board of Directors has realized for some time that it did not make much financial sense to pay to upgrade surface amenities when the nearly 85-year old infrastructure under the Park is in a state of near total collapse. Therefore, in order to eliminate safety and health risks to the members and lay the groundwork for a more substantial upgrade of the Park’s facilities, it made sense to fix the drainage and related infrastructure first before spending your money on projects that might get damaged quickly.

WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF THIS PROJECT AND ANY FUTURE PLANS?

At the final membership meeting of 2008, members voted to approve three phases for the project: 

Phase 1: The Drainage reconstruction and improvement
Phase 2: Surface upgrades including the bike track, new blacktop with two additional basketball hoops, upgrade to the field, slides and swing replacements
Phase 3: Our share of Barnett Ave Upgrade

Since that meeting, a couple of events have altered our plans. First of all, significant damage to the sewer pipes were discovered that has forced us to pay money each month just to keep this system operable. When putting together the final plan for the Drainage Project, we had to add sewer repair to the scope of work.

Secondly, through the strong efforts led by various Park members, the city has taken control of Barnett Ave and undertaken significant upgrades as all can see. While we may, over time, elect to spend money on that side of the park for various reasons, we do not anticipate needing the full $120,000 that was originally budgeted for Phase 3.

HOW ARE WE PAYING FOR THE DRAINAGE PROJECT?

This project is far and away the largest capital improvement project undertaken in the Park’s history. This is comes from the realization that band-aid solutions are not acceptable and it is time to put the Park on a strong foundation for the next 85 years.

That being said, we are a non-profit, member-funded organization where 80%+ of revenue is derived from membership dues. While all members agreed to a $100 special assessment at the beginning of this fiscal year to help partially fund this project, it is not feasible to ask members to contribute this much money, especially at a time of ongoing economic uncertainty. Therefore, additional funds must be secured.

At the February 2010 general meeting, a more detailed analysis will be presented to members as to how this first phase will be funded. In summary, money will come from our general account (excess money not needed for operations), the special assessment funds, plus grants and donations from private and public sector groups and politicians. At this point in time, though we continue to explore all options, we do not anticipate taking on any debt.

The Board has also assembled a group of members who have experience writing grants and seeking donations in an effort to widen our scope of potential donating organizations. This group will work with our sister organization, the Friends of Sunnyside Gardens Park, to assist in raising additional funds.

HOW HAVE WE MADE SURE WE ARE GETTING THE PROJECT IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY?

The Board, working with dedicated members with specific expertise in architecture and construction, has gone through a rigorous process to insure competitive bidding among qualified firms to procure the best project for the money we have.

In the planning stages we hired firms to send a camera through our drains to confirm the extent of the problem. We then hired the firm Miele & Associates to put together a plan for the project and assist in getting the requisite approvals from the city. This also involved significant due diligence to prove that the Sunnyside Gardens Community Association Inc. was the rightful and legal manager of the park and our ability to undertake the project would not be challenged in any way. This meant digging up documents from as far back as 1924.

Lastly, the team put together a bid package and solicited bids from 7 different contractors from which we received 4 firm bids. We are in the final stages of selecting the winning bidder and finalizing the exact scope of the project. We will notify members at the next general meeting as to the winning bidder.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT TIMEFRAME FOR THE PROJECT?

We expect that construction will begin on February 2 and finish around April 1. There will be some work that will need to be done during the two weekends before construction starts and we are seeking members who can volunteer to help either Jan 16/17 or Jan 23/24.

WILL THE ENTIRE PARK RE-OPEN ON APRIL 1?

No, not completely. Because we want to make sure that the grass on the ball field has time to grow back, there will be no access permitted to the ball field until the Memorial Day Fair on May 23. We ask your help in making sure that people stay off the field during this period of time to avoid damaging the grass and then having to find more money to pay for additional work in the summer. While we regret the inconvenience of this to members, this should avoid a more prolonged field closure or damaged grass in the future.

The blacktop, upper sandbox and playground, the lowers and the picnic area will be open as usual during this time.

WHAT EVENTS MAY BE AFFECTED BY THE PARK CLOSURE FOR CONSTRUCTION?

Traditional spring sports programs will be affected by the closing, as well as the Park's annual Easter Egg Hunt. Members will be provided more information as construction moves forward.

IF THE FIELD IS NOT READY FOR USE UNTIL MAY, CAN I PAY MY DUES THEN?

We are asking members to pay their membership dues, as usual, by April 1. Renewal forms will be mailed out at the beginning of February. Note that the park will be open to members even as we get the field ready for use.

WILL DUES BE PRO-RATED?

No. Park board members, staff and volunteers are working very hard to make sure the construction project, and the temporary closing of the field, will impact members as little as possible. Membership has been gracious in paying an assessment last year to help pay for this project, and while no special assessment is being made this year, the park greatly needs its membership dues to keep the park operating and to meet its obligations to staff and vendors.

WHAT HAPPENS IF DUES ARE LATE?

The park has longstanding policies regarding late and delinquent membership payments. Any park member that has questions on dues, late payments or partial payments please contact the park office.

WILL TENNIS BE AFFECTED?

The current schedule for completing the portion of the Project on the tennis courts should allow tennis to open on their regular schedule.

WHAT IS THE FRIENDS OF SUNNYSIDE GARDENS PARK?

FOSGP is a registered 501(c)(3) not for profit organization whose singular goal is to raise money for the Sunnyside Gardens Park. Because of its tax-exempt status, any charitable donations to FOSGP are exempt from taxes to the person or organization making the donation. This is an important aspect of our fundraising efforts, so please consider FOSGP when making your charitable donations.


 
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