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Pasco rejects lone SunWest Park construction bid

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco commissioners on Tuesday rejected an $8 million construction bid for the future SunWest park in Aripeka.

Commission Chairman Jack Mariano said he’s still confident the park can open this summer.

The county has earmarked $4.6 million for the future cable park and beach at SunWest, but it received just one bid from David Nelson Construction of Palm Harbor for nearly twice the budget.

Mariano said that SunWest Harbourtowne developer Gary Grubb has offered to donate mass grading services for the beach that could shave $900,000 to $1 million from the project cost. “Mr. Grubb has really stepped up to the plate here,” he said.

Grubb built beaches on his private lake next to the proposed park.

“He’s not asking for anything in return — except that he gets to keep the dirt,” County Administrator Michele Baker said.

Baker said the county can remove the grading from the project and rebid it in about 45 days.

Commissioner Pat Mulieri worried that even with Grubb’s donation, the project would still be over budget. But Baker said the bid package will be structured so certain elements could be removed or added depending on how the bids come in.

“We think we’ll get more competition from bidders this time,” Baker said. “There are many contractors who can build a park, but not many contractors can scrape the side of a lake and build a beach.”

The park would include beaches on the south and west shores of the lake and a 500-space parking lot. Project Manager Robert Saez had previously suggested replacing the asphalt parking lot with gravel to cut costs, but Commissioner Ted Schrader emphasized that the lot should be paved to allow for boat access from the existing channel.

“I hope our primary focus would be to provide boaters access to the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

The county is currently negotiating with wake park operator Pat Panakos to build a wakeboarding park at SunWest and to maintain the county park. Baker said she and Panakos plan to meet next week to review the operating agreement.

The park master plan calls for later phases with a boardwalk with restaurants, shops and an amphitheater. Panakos said his future plans include a high ropes course, zip line and inflatable play area.

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