Repairs to Poe Springs Park resume


In this file photo, people wade through Poe Springs State Park Thursday, May 17, 2012. The park is currently under construction.

Photo by Doug Finger/ Staff Photographer
Published: Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

Work resumed this week on repairs to Poe Springs Park, a project that has doubled in cost since the Alachua County Commission approved it about a year ago.

When the project was approved in December 2011, its estimated cost was $86,250, said Robert Avery, the county's parks and open spaces superintendent. Now expenses will total more than $130,000 for the repairs, which aim to replace a retaining wall and add steps leading safely into the water.

That figure doesn't include about $148,500 in funds the commission approved at a November meeting for repairs to the park's roofing, carpeting, fencing and air-conditioning systems, which are more than 20 years old. The two-decades-old shingled roofing needs replacement.

“That's the life expectancy of the shingled roof, so why wait until it starts leaking and causes trouble?” Avery asked.

He expects Florida Fill and Grading, the company overseeing the retaining wall repairs, to complete its work by early spring 2013. The county is developing a contract for the park's building repairs, which Avery said should be finished by next summer.

When the retaining wall repairs were initially approved, Avery thought it would be a simple job.

“And it's turned into one of the longest projects I've had to deal with,” he said.

The repair work has been funded through the Alachua County Parks Office's share of capital improvements funding.

The first cost bump arose from the need for an on-site archaeologist during excavation work associated with the repair project in case anything unusual was uncovered. This resulted in an additional $3,800 expense, which was dwarfed by a later request to fund a set of prefabricated steps.

The steps cost about $40,000, bumping the total project cost to about $130,000, he said. The change stemmed from the realization that the bottom rock layer where concrete steps were going to be installed was too porous. Water crept in through the rock, preventing workers from pouring concrete and spurring a new plan to install prefabricated steps in the waterlogged area and extend them up past the water line. At that point, they could pour concrete steps.

Then Tropical Storm Debby swept through the area last summer, halting construction and raising the water level by three or four feet.

When the water level hadn't dropped after weeks of waiting, county staff developed a proposal for a second set of prefabricated steps that would cost about $27,000, along with $4,800 needed to repair flooding and other damages Debby caused. The commission approved that in November as well as nearly $150,000 in building repairs.

But that $27,000 won't need to be spent because the water level finally dropped shortly after the funding was approved, Avery said.

Commissioner Susan Baird, who voted against the $32,000 amendment to the retaining wall repair budget, said it was good news the money for the steps won't be needed, but it shouldn't have been approved in the first place.

“That's just a lot of money for steps in a spring,” she said.

Baird considers park maintenance a concern, but sees issues like roads and public safety as priorities more deserving of extensive county funding. She suggested a cheaper option could have been used that might not have lasted as long but would have been sufficient.

She also suggested the building repairs could have been managed by whichever entity takes over operation of the park in the future rather than implemented by the county now.

For years, the North Central Florida YMCA operated Poe Springs Park, which was developed in 1991. The county has operated it for the past year or so, Avery said, and having a separate entity manage the park is more cost-effective.

The City of High Springs was negotiating with the county to potentially take over operating the park, but that decision was delayed when the repairs halted. Avery said the High Springs City Commission was uncomfortable entering an agreement when the repair work hadn't been completed. Once the repairs are done, Avery said he expects High Springs may consider the opportunity again.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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