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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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SunWest Park project faces key votes today

DADE CITY — The outcome of today’s Pasco County Commission meeting could determine whether SunWest Park in Aripeka opens this summer.

Commissioners, who rescheduled their regular Tuesday meeting because of the local elections, are expected to vote on two major items related to the park: the contract with Wake Park operator Patrick Panakos and construction bids to complete the park facilities.

Panakos, a Clearwater native and former professional wakeboarder, has been negotiating with Pasco officials since December 2012 to build an extreme watersports park on the former limerock mine. The 64-page contract would grant Panakos a 45-year lease of the park property, with options to renew for up to 30 more years.

He would be required to install a full-size cable system and two training cable systems for wakeboarding and water skiing in the first phase. Panakos would also be responsible for providing equipment, furniture, lockers, floating docks and an inflatable play area.

His company would provide maintenance and security for the park and would have the sole right to sell concessions, rent equipment and to charge for parking, but he would have to pay the county 3 percent of his gross revenues beginning in the second year of the contract.

The county would be responsible for building the beaches and park shelters, restrooms, parking lots, barbecue areas, and sand volleyball courts. The county also would build a new entrance from U.S. 19 and would install lighting, landscaping and sidewalks.

Later phases call for a boardwalk area, splash pad play area, zip line and permanent retail and restaurant buildings.

The biggest challenge will be finding a contractor willing to work within the county’s $4.6 million budget. Commissioners rejected the sole bidder, David Nelson Construction, in January when his bid came in at $8 million. They rebid the project after SunWest Harbourtowne developer Gary Grubb offered to donate mass grading services for the beach, shaving more than $1 million from the project cost.

This time three companies submitted bids, and they all exceed the maximum budget by more than $1 million. In a memo to the board, Purchasing Director Scott Stromer recommended the board cut some features, such as sidewalks and landscaping, and negotiate with the lowest bidder in an effort to bring the project in on budget.

Chairman Jack Mariano supports that approach. “The most important thing for us to do is to build the parking lot and the beach,” he said. “It’s imperative we go and negotiate to get done what we want to get done.”

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