In a previous article in the Gateway Sun titled ‘GSCDD board having doubts about soccer fields?‘ our publication reported on a topic of discussion at the February 5, 2015 meeting of the Gateway Services Community Development District’s Board of Supervisors, in which board members were briefed by Ryan Ruskay of RMPK Funding on the possibility of obtaining federal grant money for the soccer stadium lights in the amount of $42,000 of the $84,000 cost.

During that meeting board members made comments that suggested they didn’t want to accept grant money if it meant they would be locked-in to having soccer fields at the Sherman Soccer Complex.

Feedback from several community members was strongly in favor of the soccer fields. A Gateway resident requested that we contact the board to have them elaborate on their comments, so the Sun emailed all five Supervisors and asked each one to please provide “YOUR personal opinion as a Supervisor as to what should happen with the soccer fields. What criteria would you personally use in any vote that may be brought to decide the future of the soccer fields?”

Three of the five Supervisors responded via email. Supervisor Rod Senior and Supervisor Pamela Gill were the first two to reply, followed by Chairman William Guy.

Vice-Chairman Margaret Fineberg and Supervisor Gary Neubauer did not respond after nearly two days.

In Senior’s four-paragraph email to us he explained a number of details that were already covered in the previous Sun article, but to summarize the first two paragraphs from Senior: the GSCDD board has authorized applying for federal grants that could total up to $200,000 for recreational facilities, whatever grant money is received must be matched by the GSCDD, and there also could be conditions on the grant money so he and the board must proceed with caution.

Senior’s third paragraph expressed his concern that if federal grant money is accepted, “covenants would apply that may prevent or restrict the current board and any future board from being able to change the use of that facility at any time. Although I support the current kids soccer and flag football programs, I would not want to close the door on any other opportunities to widen or change the scope of use of the facility.”

In the final paragraph Senior spoke directly about the Sherman Soccer Complex and said, “I asked Severn Trent for a breakdown of the cost of maintaining the soccer complex. For Q4 2014, the total expenditure was $58,118. Deducting $11,894 spent on one-time renovation of the restrooms, that leaves $46,224 mainly for for landscaping and turf maintenance, staffing and floodlights. If Q4 is a typical quarter, that equals $185,000 for the year. In addition the District has budgeted $84,000 for Stadium Light Replacement in 2015. On this basis, the soccer complex will cost the District (i.e. Gateway residents) $269,000 in this fiscal year. I think this is a significant cost burden on the Gateway residents that needs to be reviewed to see if there is a more cost effective way to provide the same community benefit.”

Severn Trent is a company that provides many management services to the GSCDD, including accounting services.

In a follow-up question the Sun asked Senior whether “community benefit” by his definition related directly to the benefit of specifically having soccer fields or the general benefit of recreational space for sports and other activities. He responded with “the same benefit for Gateway’s families at the Soccer Complex”.

It was more of a ‘what’ question than a ‘where’ question from us, but that was the clarification Senior provided so we’ve passed it along. 

Supervisor Gill’s response also stated her concerns about the grants: “This looks like a great program for the district, but I think we need to make sure that it’s a good fit.”

In my opinion the board needs to know all the stipulations that are attached to receiving grant money before we make that type of commitment,” said Gill.

Gill also brought up a subject that was not covered in the previous Sun article. Once grant money is accepted the general public would have more rights to use the facilities, which includes people who are not residents of Gateway.

Issues like how public is public, the district takes pride in our facilities and the community,” said Gill.

More information will be brought forward on the ‘how public is public’ topic but it seems as though Gateway residents would still hold some level of priority for scheduling organized league play. However the GSCDD might be unable to place restrictions on who’s using the facilities when they aren’t in use by organized leagues.

Gill said she doesn’t believe we should worry about the future of the soccer fields.

Chairman Guy’s email complimented the soccer fields, calling them a “wonderful asset” for the community.

There has been no conversation among Supervisors to close or substantially alter the use of the complex,” said Guy, adding, “Supervisors have recently been interested in the cost of maintaining the complex.”

To clarify our own coverage, the Sun is not saying the Supervisors held a debate on closing the soccer fields. The Sun is saying that when presented with the possibility of receiving federal grant money the Supervisors immediately and repeatedly sought assurances from Ruskay that the soccer fields would not have to become a permanent fixture in Gateway if they accepted grants.

The Gateway Sun has scheduled an appointment at the GSCDD offices on Monday morning (Feb 16, 2015) at 9:00am to make our own recording of the February 5, 2015 exchange with Ruskay that we will transcribe and post on our website before the next GSCDD board meeting.

The GSCDD does stream the board meetings live online but they do not place a copy of the meetings on the Internet for public viewing once the meeting is finished. However, anyone can request to view videos of any GSCDD board meeting if they contact the GSCDD staff.

Regrettably we did not hear back from Vice-Chairman Fineberg or Supervisor Neubauer, however we did provide ample time and double-checked that we typed their email address accurately when sending them our message.

The next GSCDD Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled on February 19, 2015 at 3:00pm.

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

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