ORANGE PARK – After 11 years of debate, Orange Park Town Council approved a $1.1 million bid to remodel a stretch of Kingsley Avenue at the River Road intersection that has become known as Kingsley …
ORANGE PARK – After 11 years of debate, Orange Park Town Council approved a $1.1 million bid to remodel a stretch of Kingsley Avenue at the River Road intersection that has become known as Kingsley East.
Considered for years as the Holy Grail of capital projects, the vest pocket park would provide the town’s only publically accessible view of the St. Johns River. The new bid comes in 25 percent higher than the amount council allocated in 2016 for the project.
The plan passed will be a less grandiose remodel from previously proposed plans, which in the past have included piers, parks, historic lighting and brick-covered crosswalks.
The project will rehabilitate the dusty median of the three-block stretch of road by raising and landscaping the curb to prevent cars from parking between the two-lane road as they often do.
The contract also specifies the contractor must remove and reconstruct the roadway, construct a new sidewalk and repair and replace new residential driveways.
A large chunk of money to fund the project comes from roughly $733,000 in rollover funds approved in the summer of 2016. The rest of the funding comes from the town’s water and sewer fund.
Funding for the project comes in the current fiscal year budget, less than a month before the current fiscal year ends.
The project also includes parking spaces, although many residents – especially those along River Road – believed the town should lower the number of parking spaces to keep the quaint stretch of road from becoming a parking lot.
While the approved contract does not accommodate that request, Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos said the contractor, St. Augustine-based Besch and Smith Civil Group, is aware the town plans to add a number of change orders to the project. One change will limit the number of parking spaces from Astor Street to River Road to 24 spaces.
Storm water and sewer systems will also see an upgrade under the project.
“Right now the town’s water main does not go all the way down to the end of Kingsley and River Road, it stops near Stiles [Avenue],” said Town Clerk Sarah Campbell. “This project is going to create a waterline loop that is going to connect Kingsley to the River Road water line.”
Campbell said the upgrade will provide a backup line to pump water into homes on River Road should the main line see a malfunction or shutdown.
While not the massive project some residents believed the project was heading towards, Campbell said there is always time to add in those touches later.
“Definitely…” Campbell said. “It’s not a lavish project, but it is going to be a good upgrade from what’s there now. I think the vision for this part of town is not yet established, so we can make improvements always in any neighborhood in any path that they choose.”
The motion to approve the contract from Besch and Smith passed the council 4-1, with Council Member Ron Raymond voting no.
Raymond said he could not approve the project “in good conscience” because the original recommendation made in a budget review committee last month mentioned nothing about awarding a contract.
“I’m not interested in killing the project, but I am interested in doing it at least in the way that I voted for it,” Raymond said. “What you’re proposing to do is not right.”
Mayor Scott Land said the council trumps the committee. The budget review committee was made up of each council member for the purposes of recommending actions to the full council on budget-related matters.
“This is going to get a good project moving that’s been needed for years and we’re going to get it adjusted so as to we get all the public’s comments in there,” said Council Member Alan Watt. “It’s time to get this done – it’s been going on for 10 years.”
In January, the council appeared on its way to approving a more grandiose Kingsley East project, that may have given the town another venue to host town event other than in Town Hall Park.
When the former town council received the news that just to rehab Kingsley East would come in over $1 million dollars, they left the fate of the landmark project to the next council that would see two new members seated after the April election.
After deliberations, a majority of council members decided the best course of action was to approve the current bid for the project and submit change orders as opposed to changing the project specifications and starting all over again by seeking new requests for proposals.
The council first send the project out for bid in April. According to the project contract, the project must be completed within eight months of approval.