The first phase of a plan to renovate the ball fields at Birmingham's Kenning Park, in conjunction with Birmingham Little League, was approved at the Birmingham City Commission meeting on Monday, February 25.
Lauren Wood, director of public services, informed commissioners that the parks and recreation board had first had a concept master plan done for Kenning Park in March 2014, with phase 1 including a parking lot reconstruction and landscaping.
“Now here we are in 2019, looking at the two easterly fields and shifting fields,” Wood said. There are currently four fields, and two other fields would be redone in later phases.
In December 2017, a donation agreement was entered into between the city of Birmingham and Birmingham Little League of $303,000 for improvements of fields 2 and 3 at Kenning Park, both of which are on the easterly edge of the park, she explained. Birmingham Little League has offered another $12,000 donation for a total donation of $315,000.
The city received four bids for the work, each for over $700,000, and chose the lowest, for $737,000, from WCI Contractors, leaving the city's portion at $422,000, in a public/private partnership, Wood explained.
Commissioner Mark Nickita objected to the plan, noting the design was missing other information city plans typically included, such as trees and paths.
“I'm reluctant to implement this without all the other details,” he said. “Where are the trees, where are the paths? This is a piecemeal approach. This is inconsistent with how we plan anything. Can we get a revised drawing of the other plan that can show where we're going? It's part of the process and part of good planning.”
“This is a concept plan. We're working within the established plan with minor deviation,” countered city manager Joe Valentine. “We're just putting it into a practical approach. This was precipitated by a grant from the private sector.”
Valentine explained there was not enough money to do all the fields at once.
“It's going about it backwards. You plan the whole site, and then do the phases you can afford,” Nickita said. “We're only looking at part of it, and then figuring out the rest later. The process has already gone through in a way I believe it shouldn't have. It's not the way we do things.”
“If we don't go forward tonight, then the whole year is gone,” said commissioner Pierre Boutros. “We should be confident with the concept plan.”
“If we bid it early, then we're on the contractor's docket early, for June,” Valentine said.
Commissioners approved the bid, 5-1, with Nickita opposing and commissioner Stuart Sherman not in attendance.
“I have to disagree with the city manager,” Nickita said. “It's not just a pretty picture. We don't implement phase one without knowing what phase two is going to be.”