The Bay Oaks Recreation Campus Committee voted 7-0 that it was not in favor of the plan now on the table for a new Bay Oaks campus. Town Manager Roger Hernstadt bypassed the committee, and showed a drastically changed design, directly to the town council. They are clearly upset that Hernstadt is ignoring them.
For several years the BORCAB committee has been working on ideas for a new Bay Oaks campus. The previous town council made it clear it was time to upgrade Bay Oaks, Times Square and Bayside Park. A small increase in taxes was approved to help fund the projects.
Town Manager Roger Hernstadt instructed the BORCAB committee to “Think Big.” And that’s exactly what they did. They discussed and hashed out ideas for new buildings, new ball fields, upgraded fitness equipment and many other items. Estimated costs for thinking big were pegged at between $15 to $20 million for the project.
There was one problem with thinking that big. The town, which is borrowing a total of $10 million for all three projects, set aside $5.5 million for Bay Oaks. So, over time, items had to be chopped from the ‘think big’ project to fit the $5.5 million budget.
That, according to the committee, was done by the town manager, staff and the design consultant without their knowledge or input. The new design was unrecognizable to them.
Committee Chair Betty Simpson said the problem here is the lack of communication. “This has been moved through some steps without including us. The design Roger took to the council doesn’t look anything like our original plan.”
Committee Vice Chair Barbara Hill called the latest design “a half-ass building.”
New BORCAB committee member Holly Tribble jumped in to say that, even though she’s new, she clearly sees a lack of transparency. “What the island people feel is just pushed to the side. There’s so much lack of transparency, lack of communication. Everything we’ve brought up is pushed to the side. This is just how it is.”
Committee member Lee Melsek agreed. “There’s been a lack of transparency with this committee which has worked so diligently on this project. The plan presented to the council was never presented to us first. That has bothered me a lot. Roger (Hernstadt) said we were arguing over doorknobs. I was deeply offended by that. We have never argued over doorknobs. He passed it off that cavalierly. That was a total disrespect for this advisory board.”
Another committee members said, “Why don’t we take Roger out of the middle here and deal directly with the council. That’s the problem here.”
Town staff has consistently said this is not the final design of the building and changes can still be made, however, the committee does not believe that. There was a loud grumble when that was mentioned at the meeting this week. Even though Hernstadt works in the same building the BORCAB meeting was being held, he did not attend their committee meeting.
Committee members would like the design company to come before them so they can work directly with them. Hernstadt has not been in favor of a meeting like that because there’s a cost associated with a visit from DRMP, the design company.
Invoices we were able to analyze through a public information request show that town taxpayers have already spent approximately $70,000 in design costs on the new Bay Oaks campus. Bayside Park design invoices total approximately $84,000.