The St. Augustine City Commission in its regular meeting last night made the decision to appropriate up to $81,900 to the lowest responsible bidder to construct a sound attenuating wall at the Hamilton Upchurch skateboard park.
The commission’s approval was given for a 12-foot tall sound attenuating wall that is to be covered with ivy or another vine material to “soften” the reflected sounds of the skateboard activity inside the park. The $81,900 figure includes a $5,000 contingency for landscaping costs.
Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline voiced her concerns that without the added height of trees, the sound generated by the skateboarders would ricochet off the walls — regardless of their height; continuing to be a source of irritation to neighbors.
Commissioner Crichlow, who was not at the last meeting, said that if the landscaped wall failed to bring the park into compliance with the City noise level ordinance, there are special sound abatement materials that could be applied directly to the wall to squelch the sound of the skateboarders.
At the October 12, 2009 commission meeting, a 14 to 16-foot wall was proposed. However, a final decision was delayed in order to allow further staff to study the likelihood that the wall would actually solve a neighborhood noise problem. Chief Operations Officer John Regan reported receiving bids ranging from $67,900 for a 10-foot wall up to $95,200 for a 16-foot wall.
Approval of the wall constitutes “sending more good money after bad” according to several residents who asked that their names not be used, but, they say, live in the Flamingo Drive neighborhood.
The original design of the park included a 6 to 8-foot earthen berm as a noise barrier. The berm was to be landscaped with crepe myrtle; running along the property line, supposedly to protect adjacent home owners from noise pollution.
Nobody is accepting responsibility and the commission seems to be avoiding pointing a finger at exactly who was responsible for the berm never being built.
In January of this year, when the plea was heard for construction of the park, Phillip McDaniel, was leading the effort to further recreation in the city. McDaniel was determined to rally support for the park and did rally parents, residents and more than 20 skateboarders, elementary school-age and up, at a community meeting held at R.B. Hunt Elementary School.
City Commissioner Errol Jones said in January that he is encouraging the development of the skate park as a place for the community to interact. “We are conscious of the residential area, but I think we can do this together,” Jones said.
McDaniel’s vision was that St. Johns County, the city and the residents could all come together to “make it happen” through what has been called a “private-public partnership”.
Last night, as occurred at the city commission meeting two weeks ago, and earlier this year, once again the board heard from supporting skateboarders and opposing neighbors. This time the voices fell on the ears of commissioners who recognized they had to do something to repair the nuisance that has been created in the neighborhood; some of whom were clear that they feel that they didn’t get what they paid for originally.