By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council is deciding what sort of legacy it wants to leave for Norman residents and visitors at the greatly anticipated Legacy Park in the University North Park development.
With the park land dedication completed, the project was rebid and plans are under way to construct the park Norman has long dreamed of having as the anchor for the TIF funded development.
“We’ve got almost $8 million available,” Norman Parks Director Jud Foster told city council members Tuesday night during a non-voting study session to discuss possible park amenities and the construction contract. Under consideration are a number of extra amenities including fountains, additional lighting for beauty as well as public safety, and a trail around the adjacent detention pond.
Five bids were received with the low base bid from CGC, LLC at $5,525,900 and alternate items at $1.495 million for a total of $7,020,900. The engineer’s estimate for the base bid was just more than $6 million with an additional $1.9 million in alternate items coming to a total $7.9 million.
The park was bid in 2010 for an original base bid of $5.3 million but the project was held up by lengthy negotiations between the city and the UNP developer.
“The second time around the base bid increased by about 3.3 percent and the total bid increased by about 5 percent,” Foster said.
That increase is less than had been feared.
Items included in the base bid are a wishbone entry drive, enhanced treatment of Legacy Park Drive, entry portals, an amphitheater with stage, cover and grass surface seating area that will hold between 700 and 1,000 people. Also included are a one acre pond with programmable fountains, a promenade walk around the pond, an arbor on the west side, restrooms, walkways on the west and extensive landscaping and pedestrian lighting.
The amphitheater will be used for community events, some of which will be held at night when the lighting will be needed.
Added alternates for the city council to consider include stage railing along the pond, stage floor light fixtures, decorative light fixtures on the entry, and cascading water features. Other alternates included added walking trail landscape plantings and sod, walking trail sidewalks, and trail benches, lighting and trash receptacles.
It’s the additional walking trail and amenities that caused some discussion and dissension among council members Tuesday night. The additional third of a mile would be around the existing detention pond adjacent to the park and next to Kohl’s. The pond is a stormwater collector for the development and currently is dry. Some landscaping has been provided by Kohl’s but city staff have proposed additional landscaping, a sidewalk trail, benches and lighting to expand the walkable area for the public.
The sidewalks would be an improvement to private property, Council member Tom Kovach said.
But the sidewalks are well within the city’s right of way and will not be problematic, city attorney Jeff Bryant said.
Kovach said the park has walking trails.
Other Council members said providing trails and lighting invites people to traverse that area, but others said the additional landscaping would turn the current eyesore into a beautiful area and provide overflow for people attending large events at the park.
The public safety issue of additional lighting was briefly discussed. Some council members don’t believe the investment in the lighting and extra trails are warranted, but others say people will spill over into that adjacent area and lighting and trails will help keep it beautiful and safe.
Asked whether they would consider input from the public on the subject of the walking trails, council members said there has already been a lot of public input on Legacy Park and more public input is not needed.
Council members also discussed the possible hotel/motel tax increase with hopes of putting something on the ballot for voters by April. The original discussion focused on a 1 percent or 2 percent increase. Tuesday night, a possible 1.5 percent increase was briefly discussed and will be looked at in more depth.
While increasing the tax would increase funding for the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau, local hoteliers want to stay competitive with Oklahoma City and Tulsa in the ability to bid conventions and bring those large revenue producers to town.
Currently, local hotels are attracting conventions that previously booked in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Under consideration in winning those bids is the complete tax package. Tulsa has a slightly lower sales tax than Norman. The large conventions are bid by total tax package including sales and motel/hotel tax.
“If we’re equal to Oklahoma City, we lose that competitive advantage,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said.
In regular session
At the regular, 6:30 council meeting, ReRun Junction was recognized as this year’s Human Rights award recipient. The thrift store provides employment for persons with developmental and other disabilities.
“ReRun employees have said they are not looking for any special treatment.” said Kay Hamm, Norman Human Rights Commission.
The Commission selects the annual award recipient which may be either an individual or an organization. Accepting the award on behalf of ReRun Junction were employees Sandy Ackerman and Lisa Eubanks.
“I would like to take this time to thank you for your support of ReRun Junction,” Eubanks said. “We would like to be seen as individuals who make an impact on Norman and we would like to be known as people who make a positive impact.”
Comments by Eubanks and Ackerman received a standing ovation. Also attending from ReRun Junction were employee Emily Sandefer and Vocational Coordinator Dolly Triplett.
In closing comments City Manager Steve Lewis said December receipts of tax collections were up 6.6 percent over collections for the same time period last year.
“We’re still a little bit below budget projections for the year,” Lewis said.
Further details will be forthcoming soon in the monthly report by the finance department.
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