PLEASANT HILL -- Laura Fernandez wasn't playing around as she grilled recreation district leaders about their decision to build only one playground at the new Pleasant Oaks Park.
General Manager Bob Berggren defended the district by noting that residents are getting three new facilities -- the senior, teen and community centers -- for the $28 million bond voters passed in 2009.
Squeezing three buildings from that money hasn't been easy, district leaders said. And when bids for the teen and senior centers came in $600,000 over budget, the board had to drop some of the expensive aesthetic features they wanted to make the buildings unique.
Also not coming -- a previously planned $160,000 play structure for school-age children.
"When we put our first and second projects out to bid I think we were all stunned that the lowest bid was considerably more than we ever expected," board member Sandra Bonato recalled Thursday.
Such rationalizations didn't appease Fernandez.
"There are promises made to the public and those are promises that need to be kept," she said, noting that the board also dropped plans to remodel restrooms at several parks.
The Pleasant Oaks Park project includes five softball fields, a full-size soccer field, pathways that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, new turf, two paved parking lots, new dugouts and batting cages. The construction budget is about $3.4 million; total cost, including design and permit fees, is $4.1 million. The board agreed to spend $106,000 on a play structure for preschool-age children to replace one the district removed to make way for the park improvements and $32,000 for a large picnic area. But there isn't enough money for either the play structure for school-age children or for shade structures for the picnic area ($46,000).
When the bids came in higher than expected, the district had to supplement the project budgets with most of its $1.7 million share of an East Bay Regional Park District bond.
"There was so much more that we wanted to do, but we did the core of what we promised," board President Bob Glover said.
In June, the district sold a three-bedroom house on Gregory Lane that had been part of the old senior center for nearly $357,000. Fernandez asked why the board had allocated $250,000 of the proceeds from the sale to each of the bond projects except Pleasant Oaks Park.
District leaders have suggested raising money to buy the second playground. Fernandez, however, said residents are repaying the bond through property taxes. "I have a bill in my hand that says I shouldn't need to fundraise," she said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.