Folwell Park Phase 1 improvements gain momentum

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By this time next year, Folwell should be looking a lot shinier!

First, the good news

As reported in our August issue, the concept plan for Folwell’s new play area has been approved by the MPRB Board of Commissioners, and the playground purchase and funding are already in line to allow this part of the project to move forward. Completion dates are dependent upon the weather (this is Minnesota!) as well as contractor/equipment/supplier availability, but it is anticipated that the playground will be up and running in time for families to enjoy the new facilities during the 2020 summer break.

Now, the bad news
The past few months have turned up some stumbling blocks to getting the remaining elements of Phase 1 off the ground – renovation of the currently unusable tennis courts (including pickleball striping), improvement of the multi-use athletic field plus new lighting, and a new pathway.

First, due to a very robust construction industry here in the Twin Cities, when the Folwell Phase 1 project was put out to bid, it came in well over budget due to the price of construction. Then the contractor with the lowest bid missed a Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights compliance filing deadline that is integral to bids on City projects over $100,000, and their bid was rejected by the Civil Rights Contract Compliance Division (CCD).

As a result, construction will be delayed until the budgeting issues have been resolved and the project has been put out for re-bid in order to procure a qualified contractor to carry out the work. MPRB project manager Dan Elias anticipates that the re-bidding process should be completed by late fall, allowing for a spring 2020 start on construction for the remaining Phase 1 project elements that are fully funded.

Civil rights don’t mean equal rights
While CCD’s mandate is a noble one (the monitoring of City contracts to ensure that minorities, women and low-income business owners and workers have access to employment and contracting opportunities), the CCD lacks automation and a consistent process as it relates to the mandatory Small and Underutilized Business Program (SUBP) documentation required for contractors bidding on City projects.

City Media Relations Coordinator Casper Hill confirmed with me that CCD staff have to complete a lot of steps, including manual ones, when bids are opened on City contracts. And, surprisingly, I learned that CCD staff only send bidders email reminders about CCD’s critical next-day SUBP filing deadline as best practice. Not as standard practice. Which means that some contractors benefit from a reminder about the deadline, and others (like the lowest bidder on the Folwell project) do not get this advantage.

So, when a complex and time-consuming process (both for CCD staff and contractors alike) lacks consistent application and clear communication by the process owners, when it fails to provide ALL users with an equal opportunity to successfully navigate the system, it makes even a well-intentioned process into an inequitable process.

Tennis programs at Folwell
When will you be able to dust off that tennis racket? Refurbishment of the existing tennis courts is definitely a part of the Folwell Park Phase 1 improvement plan, and if all goes as it should this time around, the courts will be open for business by next summer.

Which means you can expect to see tennis programs on offer at Folwell. Travis Hegland, Park Director and Recreation Specialist at Folwell Park rec center, has said that they are planning to work with InnerCity Tennis and also Revolutionary Sports (Revsports) to offer tennis programs for all ages and lessons for kids once the work on the courts has been completed.

What a difference a year makes!
In August of last year, following the season-long closure of the wading pool due to chronic leaking, things looked very bleak for Folwell Park. Today, I can report that Folwell’s wading pool has held water all summer. We have NOT got a pond! And there should be some beautiful new facilities for park users to enjoy by summer 2020.

That’s quite a turnaround!