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Ball fields to be redesigned to cut cost

Little Leaguers will have to wait at least another season before they get three new baseball fields. City staff had hoped to have the three brand-new fields next to Highland Recreation Complex ready for play by next month.

Those hopes were dashed when they discovered that nobody would build the fields for the amount of money the city had budgeted.

The City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday evening to redesign the project to cut the cost and then ask for bids again.

So the Largo Little League will have to play at Jake Rush Field on Starkey Road for one more season.

Despite the delay, construction on the new fields probably will begin in the late spring and be finished by next fall _ in plenty of time for next year's baseball season, said Cathy Santa, the city's Parks and Recreation director.

Bids to build the three fields ranged from $588,741 to $699,925. The city has $555,075 in its budget for the three fields, plus renovating a softball field at the Highland Recreation Complex for seniors to play on.

The softball field renovation wasn't included in the first bid request, but will be included in the next one, Santa said.

Santa said she plans to meet with the Little League and the baseball field designers next week to see how the cost of the project can be cut. She expects extras such as bleachers and other amenities will be the first things cut.

"Our main objective is to get well-built and designed fields," Santa said.

In other discussion, commissioners decided to delay publication of an annual state of the city report to residents until after the March 13 election.

Duane Runyan, who is running for a seat on the City Commission, asked commissioners to delay the report, scheduled to be published six days before the election, because he said it would give incumbent commissioners an advantage because their pictures and names will be in the report.

Commissioners agreed to Runyan's request if it is possible to delay the publication.

"There are enough issues out there without making this one," Mayor George McGough said.