Residents of Wildwood’s Ward 5 have waited several years for a promised city park in their part of town. That dream was once a grand aspiration of a large park with a price tag well over $1 million; however, residents learned earlier this year that their park would be built on a much smaller scale.
But now the price tag is going up.
Due to storm mitigation requirements being placed on the project by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, the city’s contractor has come back to the city saying the project’s cost needs to increase by another $91,000. That change order pushes the total price tag for the park to $849,000 despite its scale.
At the Oct. 21 City Council meeting, council member Debra Smith McCutchen [Ward 5] found herself once again pleading with her peers to support the project.
“There is no further way to reduce this park without making it null and nonexistent.” McCutchen said. “I would appreciate it if you all would support this on behalf of Ward 5.”
McCutchen and her fellow Ward 5 Council member Dave Bertolino have championed the long-promised park for several years, even as other parks and projects have been started and completed.
Some members of the council felt it was premature to simply add another $91,000 to the project. Council member Tim Woerther [Ward 7] encouraged his peers to step back and seek clarification and more details on the requirements being set by MSD.
“The [Planning and Parks] Committee did not have the information needed to make a proper decision,” Woerther said upon hearing from Parks Director Joe Vujnich that all information received came from the contractor and not directly from MSD. Woerther expressed his desire to see the matter sent back to the committee so that they could engage MSD directly in a dialogue on the added costs.
In a memorandum presented to the committee on Oct. 15, Vujnich had expressed surprise by the added cost that he attributed to the fact that MSD “changed approaches relative to its review and requirements for this facility …”
Some members of the council wondered if MSD wasn’t acting in a punitive manner given recent election results. In a ballot measure labeled “Prop S” MSD had sought an increase in stormwater charges for homeowners in St. Louis County. They argued the increase was needed to raise money to address known stormwater issues throughout the county. Ultimately voters rejected Prop S and some members of the council pondered if MSD’s “changed approaches” weren’t some kind of retribution.
“I almost feel like we’re being punished because we brought up creek erosion,” council member Lauren Edens [Ward 2] said during the meeting.
Despite an attempt to send the project back to the planning committee, the council kept development plans for the neighborhood park on track bu approving the change order at its Oct. 21 meeting.