Oct. 26 2018 11:13 AM

Neighbors still dissatisfied as lawsuit slugs forward

A contractor smoothes over mulch on g at the newly installed Ormond Park playground.


FRIDAY, OCT. 26 — A new playground is under construction at Ormond Park, but neighbors are still largely dissatisfied as their lawsuit lingers unresolved nearly a year after it was filed against the city of Lansing.


Mayor Andy Schor kept a campaign promise last week to replace the playscape that was removed last year from the neighborhood park in favor of a two-lane driveway to Groesbeck Golf Course. Residents embroiled in a lawsuit against the city contend Lansing officials don’t seem to care about much else at the local park.


“We are pleased the playground equipment is going in,” said Merry Stanford, president of Friends of Ormond Park. “There have been no further developments on the settlement and no movement by the city on our suggestions for safety and public enjoyment of the park, such as a larger speed bump and planting more trees. The city does not appear interested in any aspect of our case other than the playground equipment.”


The neighborhood organization filed a lawsuit against the city last November to prevent roadway construction. The city didn’t first survey for an endangered bat species and the removal of trees and the playscape would “detrimentally alter” the space and pose safety concerns for children who play in the park, court records state.


Lansing, in turn, sought to dismiss the lawsuit on the basis of governmental immunity but the request was ultimately denied. Its appeal has since sat motionless for months at the Michigan Court of Appeals. No hearings have been scheduled. And both sides said they don’t expect much movement before the end of the year.


The roadway has since been built and the neighborhood group has turned its focus to remediating the “negative impacts” of the renovations. They no longer want to uproot the street; they just want to find a compromise.


Schor said he committed to restoring the playground and the basketball court and will “do what is needed” to plant trees and install additional safety signage. Parks Director Brett Kaschinske said those items are entwined in the ongoing lawsuit and a settlement hasn’t yet been reached in the case.


“The Friends of Ormond Park continue to sue the city and that is their right,” Schor said in a statement. “We will continue to defend the city. We have provided a response to their attorneys and await their response.”


Stanford, however, said there have been no further developments on a potential settlement. Friends of Ormond Park submitted a list of suggestions in September — including a request to recoup $60,000 in legal fees — amid efforts to push the possibility of a resolution forward. But hopes for an equitable solution have only dwindled.


“It has been over a month without meaningful response,” Stanford penned in a letter to Schor. “This leads us to wonder if the city has ever intended to negotiate a settlement. This is why we took the conversation public.”


Besides replacement playground equipment, Stanford also wants to see additional signage, natural fencing around the playscape, raised crosswalks, replanted trees and a guarantee that the roadway be kept, in perpetuity, as a public roadway and never sold into private development. And the city, so far, hasn’t moved on the requests.


Schor previously outlined a shared vision to reactivate Ormond Park but stopped short of offering to pay the group’s attorney fees. He said Lansing will do “whatever we need,” including speed limit signs and crosswalks, to ensure children are safe at the park. Those features have yet to be installed as work continues on the playground.


A request for a more detailed accounting of the costs associated with the roadway, however, has since been fulfilled. A spokesperson for Schor’s office recently provided City Pulse with a $445,000 breakdown of the construction and engineering costs that were needed to pave the roadway. Kaschinske filled in the gaps.


The listing outlined how construction costs tallied to $357,000 with an additional $82,000 in site engineering among other expenditures like $2,500 in soil borings and about $500 spent on “Park Closed” signage. That document — provided below — has since been turned over to Friends of Ormond Park for further review.


Those costs included everything from tree removal and replacement to sewer work at the park, Kaschinske said. The new playground equipment and the soon-to-be installed basketball courts are estimated to run as high as an additional $90,000, bringing the overall costs to more than a half-million dollars since the project began last year.


Construction Contract with Michigan Paving


Total Construction Costs — $357,296.51


Engineering Contract with C2AE


Design Engineering — $31,524.87

Construction Engineering — $49,768.52

Anticipated Close Out — $5,000

Total Engineering Costs — $81,293.39


Material Testing by PSI


Soil Borings — $2,500

Construction — $3,430.26

Total Geotechnical Costs — $5,930.26


Signage


Total Signage Costs— $533.75


Ongoing Renovations


Playground — $48, 531

Sidewalk and Basketball Court — $41,500

Total Renovation Costs — $90,031


Total Project Costs — $535,084.91