Gateway Sun

It’s been nearly 12 days since the pause button was pressed on the Lake Bank Restoration Project. While previously approved repair projects will be completed, no additional pond contracts will be awarded until the GSCDD can re-evaluate the need and costs involved.

The good news is that Gateway remains fully intact. We were half expecting that a giant monster controlled by the South Florida Water Management District would emerge out of Pond 126 and go on a rampage, yelling menacingly about 4-to-1 pond slope ratios as it demanded to be fed littorals.

But while there won’t be any more pond bid packages to prepare for the time being, there is other work to be done.

Indeed, the Gateway Services District has already named the next three items on their to-do list.

First up? Staffing plan.

Now, I don’t generally like to get in to the day jobs of Supervisors, but Supervisor Doug Banks is a human resources superstar for a large company. Additionally, the GSCDD has retained another staffing superstar – a consultant named Joe DeCerbo – to help guide the district on the development of its staffing plan.

That means the GSCDD will have an insider and an independent outsider who are both talented experts in the field leading the way. (Basically, the two main things the ponds project was lacking.)

So … since the staffing plan is a boring topic… and everything looks like it’s under control with the right people leading the way, let’s move on.

Next up for the board will be the new GSCDD headquarters.

After-all, once you have a plan for your staff you need a place to put them.

By now you all know about the failed purchase of the former Girl Scouts building, and that the GSCDD has turned its attention toward placing a building on the Gateway Commons property. An incredibly brilliant idea, actually. Full marks to whomever thought up that one.

Some people won’t be happy about this and call it a waste of money. But as the person who just spent the last month fighting unnecessary GSCDD spending tooth and nail, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to the new HQ.

This is spending that needs to happen yesterday, if not sooner. The GSCDD does not have adequate space for its people right now, let alone for the future. As you read this, there is approximately $800,000 already in the budget to pay for the new facility. And now that they’re looking at building on land that the residents of Gateway already own (rather than buying new land) that money can be stretched further.

We’ll be following this topic very closely, but again with the GSCDD seemingly on the right track there doesn’t seem like there’s much to do aside from letting the process play out and reporting it when something significant happens.

Which brings us to the topic that the Board of Supervisors have said is their third and final priority for the next few months: developing a park plan for all of Gateway.

Right now, the Gateway District operates the Sherman Soccer Complex, the Gateway Commons Pool and the Fun Park.

Supervisor Ed Tinkle has been hounding district staff for over a year to line up park consultants to come in and create a master park plan for all of Gateway that would incorporate the Gateway Common area, Sherman and the Fun Park.

Now to be fair to the staff, they had to deal with Hurricane Irma so that set things back quite a bit. But with the storm clean-up behind us, some board members are willing to start working on a park plan again, while others are at least willing to listen. For Tinkle (and many residents) it won’t be a moment too soon.

Prior to Irma, the board wanted a phased approach. If I recall correctly, they want to have the park built over a period of 5 years rather than all at once. And there’s been no indication that the phased approach plan has changed.

Long-time residents of Gateway will likely recall the “Stop The Park” campaign from a decade ago. Back then, the GSCDD board of that era was looking at spending $7 million (which might be $10 million in today’s money?) on a super park that was heavy on tennis courts. This time around there isn’t any kind of push to spend anywhere near that much. Or to have a billion tennis courts.

On another positive note, today’s board seems intent on including activities such as pickleball and bocci ball that would appeal to empty-nesters in their park plan. They haven’t really singled out specific amenities, but Tinkle has brought up those activities multiple times with no push-back at all from the other board members.

Pickleball is crucial for two reasons.

First, everyone living in Gateway pays assessments either directly or incorporated in their rent. Why should a park get built with only activities that would appeal to children and young adults? The right thing to do is to have activity opportunities for people of all ages. Apparently they want pickelball and bocci ball. So let’s build it because it’s the right thing to do.

Second, politics. The number one (totally misinformed) gripe that older people have about the Sherman Complex is that they don’t have children who use it, so they don’t support it. So if we include activities that would appeal to all demographics then there will be increased community support for the project as a whole.

But I circle back to checking the “right thing to do” box. That’s the more important point.

And hey, as an added bonus a new park plan would also provide an opportunity to solve one of the district’s other nagging problems: the childish bickering from Cypress Pointe HOA board members who froth at the mouth at the sight of kids from Lehigh Acres having fun playing basketball so close to the board members’ homes.

What if we moved the basketball courts from the Fun Park to the Commons Park? I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with that. The basketball players would get a brand new court and the Cypress Pointe HOA idiots would shut up. Win-win!

I’m not saying moving the basketball courts was brought up for discussion. I’m just saying if they can do the Cypress Pointe HOA this favor and it makes sense over-all, why not make everyone happy?

At any rate… that big piece of land that’s been sitting empty on Gateway Boulevard for decades was left there for a specific purpose. And that purpose has always been to build a park for the community once there were enough people here. It’s right in the development plans for Gateway dating back to the 1980s.

The GSCDD board in 2007 thought the time had come, but the combination of community activists creating noise in Gateway (I hate people like that) coupled with the housing bubble burst put an end to that effort. Plus (not to repeat myself, but) nobody needs that many tennis courts.

It would seem now that the 2018 version of the Board of Supervisors are warming up to the idea of getting the park built once again. Just like it’s supposed to be.

As long as they build a park for all residents of all ages, the current board members could shape this community for the rest of our lifetimes.

Let’s hope they make the most of the opportunity.

break-line

We’ll also be keeping an eye out for the storm sewer system clean-out that Tinkle says needs done in Gateway Greens.

The other board members seemed to bristle at the price tag on that project. But apparently Tinkle’s got proof of serious sewer blockage, so if he does I don’t suspect there’ll be much of a fight put up by the other board members. You cannot have blocked sewers, and the sewer system is the GSCDD’s responsibility.

Nevertheless, we’ll keep you informed if anything interesting comes of it.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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