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Trees sit on a truck in Luke Wood Park, just beyond the fences of Central Park II. Efforts this year to restore the landscaping in the park have been continuously postponed.
Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013 4 years ago

Luke Wood Park project causes headaches

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

When Luke Wood Park was selected as the new location for a sewer lift station in 2008, residents at the nearby Central Park condominium complexes voiced complaints about how they might be negatively affected.

The lift station has yet to be erected, but construction in Luke Wood Park has caused headaches for those living nearby.

“It’s extremely noisy, dusty,” said Mike Venz, board president of the Central Park Condominium Association.

“We’re having to do more maintenance work to get our walkways clean because of the dirt that has been turned up. One of the major things is it’s not going to be done for another year-and-a-half or two years.”

One protracted project to spruce up the park is doing little to allay any concerns. In the wake of the delayed construction efforts below Luke Wood Park, the city began work to restore the park grounds earlier this year.
At a public site meeting held Feb. 20, residents voiced complaints about the unsightliness of the park but were looking forward to the improvements being made in a timely manner.

In March, according to a series of emails exchanged between project manager Steve Topovski and Central Park resident Pauline Kingsbury, the plans called for the removal of pipes so irrigation and landscaping at the park could be completed by early May. But, it wasn’t until July 13 that the irrigation system had been restored, and landscaping improvements are still ongoing.

“I don’t know what went wrong here,” Venz said of the city’s work in the park. “They didn’t do their homework.”

By May 9, the pipes had been removed, but the work had already extended beyond the original timeline Topovski had suggested. Shortly after, the fencing around the area was relocated to decrease the overall footprint of the project.

On May 13, assessment began on the irrigation system, with Buccaneer Landscaping working with the city to perform that task. The company was able to repair the main waterline by May 30, but the cost of the remaining irrigation work required the city to seek quotes from landscaping companies before work could be completed.

That process — originally slated to take about a week — stalled for almost three weeks before a completion date of June 28 was targeted for the irrigation repairs.

“We were converting over our annual landscaping contracts,” Topovski said. “We had a guy set up to do it and then wasn’t able to do, so we jumped through a number of different hoops, and it languished.”

One final delay was introduced as the irrigation system repairs were finally coming to a close when, during a storm, lightning struck in the area and damaged the system’s wiring.

“This is a disgrace,” Kingsbury wrote in an email to the contractor and city commissioners July 12.

“The total lack of respect shown to the residents is unbelievable. All we asked for was to have this site restored to good order whilst the city gets its act together and gets this whole project finished.”

Topovski was apologetic for the delays. He said the magnitude of the work complicated the process beyond what he had expected; the irrigation system had been inoperable for a lengthy period of time, which contributed to the difficulties in restoring it.

He also added that, though he couldn’t stick to the original timeline, he wanted to uphold the city’s efforts to be in contact with nearby residents throughout the process.

“We keep in close touch with the Central Park people to keep them informed,” Topovski said. “We did commit to maintaining communications, and, although we haven’t been able to keep up with our schedule, we have stuck with that promise.”

This week, trees are in the process of being procured and weeds are being removed to allow for the eventual installation of landscaping features. Protracted as it may have been, this aspect of the work at Luke Wood Park appears to be coming to a close. Still, this period has given little reassurance to residents who are concerned about the construction process in their backyard.

“They told us they’d be making landscape improvements, but I haven’t seen it,” Venz said, “This is probably a step in the right direction, but I don’t really know.”

Contact David Conway at [email protected].

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