- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Construction on the beleaguered Baker Park project is still at least a year away, according to what Mayor John Sorey called a “conservative” budget proposal released Monday.

The budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which City Council will discuss in August and vote on in September, includes $600,000 for Baker Park’s design, but delays by at least a year construction funding. That money is now pushed into the 2017 fiscal year “to more closely reflect the tentative construction timeline,” the city’s budget summary states.

In a contentious vote in March, City Council agreed to scrap plans for the park made by City Architect Matt Kragh, then voted again to include his plans as a starting point for the park’s new designer. The 15-acre park, which also will include about four acres of wetland, will have a boardwalk and a 231-foot pedestrian bridge connecting the park to the Gordon River Greenway.

Construction of the bridge and boardwalk is expected to begin in the 2017 fiscal year if design is completed, according to the budget. City Council during its regular meeting on Aug. 19 is expected to vote on whether to move forward with a park site review and a design review.

Sorey remains optimistic about the park’s future.

“My expectation is still, as it has been from Day 1, that construction will begin in [2016] and we’ll have ribbon cutting in [2017], which is what we had talked about continuously,” Sorey said.

Overall, the city’s proposed budget includes $34.9 million in expenditures, which is $2 million more than the current budget.

“I think it’s a very tight budget,” Sorey said. He said the city is trying to “catch up” on maintenance work as the area continues to rebound from the recent recession.

The City Dock is expected to draw a revenue increase of $10,300 with a 2.5 percent increase in commercial charter rent and a 4 percent rent increase for recreational boaters. City Harbormaster Roger Jacobsen’s request in May to use $750,000 to repair the dock was turned down by City Council. Jacobsen is expected to present a new vision for the dock at a council workshop on Aug. 17.

The dock, 95 years old, is the only wooden dock left in Naples. More than 40 beams supporting the deck aren’t connected properly and the pier planks are cracking, according to a consultant’s report that pegged the cost of the dock’s repair at $3.2 million.

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(c)2015 the Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.)

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