Sunset Hills commission recommends lowest bid for first phase of dog park

Sunset Hills Conservation Foundation plans fundraiser for dog park, chair says

By Mike Anthony

The Sunset Hills Parks and Recreation Commission recently recommended the Board of Aldermen accept the lowest of five bids to construct the first phase of the city’s dog park.

Commission members voted 6-0 to recommend the Board of Aldermen accept a $298,860 bid from C. Rallo Contracting Co. Inc.

The bids ranged from C. Rallo’s low bid to a high bid of $403,415 from TGB Inc., according to information presented to the commission by Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Brown.

The Board of Aldermen could consider the commission’s recommendation when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, at City Hall, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

As proposed, the dog park will be built on a four-acre city park at Eddie & Park Road, behind Truman Middle School and across the street from the Courtyards of Sunset Hills residential subdivision. The park has a ball field, and nearby residents, including Ward 2 Alderman Tom Musich, have protested the location of the dog park, saying the ball field is used regularly by neighborhood children.

At a Board of Aldermen meeting this summer, resident Tom Lynch represented the neighborhood and submitted a petition with 65 signatures opposing the dog park.

However, Brown and Mayor Bill Nolan dispute how much use the ball field receives, with Brown contending the park is one of the least-used in the city.

Sunset Hills and Crestwood partnered to apply for a grant from the Municipal Parks Grant Commission of St. Louis County. The commission earlier this year awarded a $220,039 grant for the first phase of the dog park.

The Sunset Hills Conservation Foundation has pledged to raise $50,000 to help fund the project. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase green space in the city.

To fund all three phases, which are estimated to cost about $783,000, the city will apply for further park grants.

At the Oct. 23 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission, Brown said, “… We bid this based on a grant proposal. So if you look at everything, everything pretty much matches up where we thought it was going to, except for utilities … The water company is making us install a 12-inch main, which was unforeseen when we did the conceptual plan, and that’s costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $7,000 …”

After meeting with the two lowest bidders — C. Rallo and Vee-Jay Cement Contracting — Brown told the commission he recommended C. Rallo’s bid of $298,860.

Brown recommended against including two alternates that had been included in the bids.

“… Alternate 1 was an upgrade on the fencing. We put that in there just to see where the price came in at,” he said. “That was more decorative fence at the front entrance. We already have it at the front entrance in the bid. We were looking maybe to do it all the way around. The fencing that’s going up is a chain link, but it’s black in color, so it’s not like your typical gray chain link …”

But the cost of a more decorative fence came in higher than anticipated, Brown said.

Alternate 2 was for extra benches — something that can be added later, if needed, he said.

Ward 3 Alderman Jan Hoffmann, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked Brown about the role the Sunset Hills Conservation Foundation will play.

“Isn’t the foundation donating part of what the city owes?” she asked.

Brown replied, “That’s correct. I mean, we had a commitment at the time when we went after this. They were looking at $50,000. I don’t want to speak for them, but that was a number they were aware of.”

Hoffmann said, “So what the city will have to come up with is significantly less than?”

Brown said, “Correct. Our difference would be whatever the grant doesn’t cover and what private donors and the foundation doesn’t supply. The city would be responsible for the remaining amount.”

Ward 2 Alderman Scott Haggerty, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked, “And there’s a portion that Crestwood pays, too?”

Brown said, “… That’s correct. So let me repeat that. So what the foundation doesn’t cover, that other portion that’s left, we would split with the city of Crestwood.”

The maximum amount Sunset Hills would have to pay would be roughly $78,821 — the difference between the grant and C. Rallo’s bid, according to Brown. However, if the foundation contributed $50,000, the remaining cost of roughly $28,000 would be split between the two cities, he said.

Regarding Brown’s comments about the Sunset Hills Conservation Foundation, the foundation’s chairman, Ron Hack, addressed the commission.

“… What Mr. Brown has said is correct. That’s kind of a hope. I mean, we’re not going to commit like it’s going to come out of our own personal pockets, but we’ve bandied, as Gerald has said, that number around. It’s a hope,” he said.

The foundation plans to sponsor a fundraiser, but has been waiting until a specific plan has been approved, Hack said.

“… We are enthusiastic,” he said. “Some of my fellow board members are here. We think the more we talk about it in the various neighborhoods — I live in Fox Meadows. That’s one neighborhood (where) everyone walks their dogs. Everybody’s who’s out there, and I’d say a good 70 percent of the neighborhood walks their dogs, is in favor of it. It’s close enough that we can drive over there.

“All the other communities that I talk to, they say it’s a good community gathering place, that the people in the community talk with each other …”

Ward 4 Alderman Pat Fribis, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, asked Hack how much he anticipates the foundation will be able to donate.

” … We’d love to raise $50,000,” he said. “We don’t have that in our bank account right now, but that’s why we do fundraisers …”

As for the construction schedule, Brown said, “… I was hoping that this project would be completed by the end of the year. I don’t think so because I think we’re going to run into really a very tough winter …

“I’m not saying they won’t get it done. Once we award it, it stills needs to go with your recommendation to the Board of Aldermen to get approval … So I would feel that the project wouldn’t even get started until the end of November …”

Under the terms of the grant, the project has to be completed by Feb. 28, Brown said.