Council kills private proposal for TeWinkle

The TeWinkle Athletic Complex will not be managed by a private company.

The Costa Mesa City Council this week nixed a proposal that would allow an athletic entertainment company to rehabilitate and manage the public sports fields next to Davis Magnet School off Arlington Drive in exchange for the right to sell beer at adult softball games.

The city had tapped Big League Dreams to work with a city task force to remodel the park. The city would have needed to conduct noise and traffic studies to move forward with the proposal and gain school district approval, due to the park's proximity to Davis.

"I don't think this is financially feasible," Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer said.

Besides overcoming opposition to selling alcohol close to a school, the federal government, which deeded the park to the city in 1949, would have to sign off on a private company operating the park, according to a letter from the Department of the Interior.

The council then tasked Parks and Recreation Manager Robert Knapp with finding ways to increase community use of the park, which is reportedly under-utilized.


Park maintenance

In related business, the council agreed to use an outside company to maintain parks and other green space.

In a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting, the council voted to outsource park and median maintenance to Merchants Landscape Services.

If the contract goes through, 13 full- and three part-time workers would be laid off. The city would keep six full-time workers to oversee the company's work.

Mayor Eric Bever pointed out that the work Merchants will be doing — maintaining 11 city facilities, 50 medians and parkways, 29 parks, lakes and six sports fields — takes up about $2.3 million of the park and landscape budget.

The contract is for about $960,000 annually, saving Costa Mesa up to 30%, or $1.3 million out of $4.5 million budgeted for all park and landscape services, which includes water, electricity and other contracts, according to a staff report.

That makes the Merchants' contract nearly 60% cheaper than city workers.

"But outsourcing is a bad idea, according to a lot of people out there," said Councilman Gary Monahan. "That is amazing to me."

Leece has long opposed laying off city workers and replacing them with private firms and did not support the decision.

The city cannot retain the landscaping company until a lawsuit filed by city employees seeking to block outsourcing is resolved. In the meantime the city can only outsource to other public agencies.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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