Plans surrounding the rotting deck of the Veterans Legacy Woods’ banquet center remain unclear within the Geauga Park District; nonetheless, the district’s Board of Commissioners decided to leave the deck standing and may continue taking reservations at the facility in the meantime.

In a regular GPD meeting Tuesday morning at the Northpoint Shelter of Beartown Lakes, Executive Director John Oros updated the commissioners on contract negotiations with a Geauga County catering company, Helene’s Cuisine, when Commissioner Andrej Lah asked if the condition of the deck has impacted the company’s negotiations.

Mr. Oros said the owners of the catering company have not indicated any affected negotiations, but he said it is possible that such indications could come up in his next meeting at the facility with the owners. He added that the park district currently has no plans set for whether the deck will be replaced.

“The replacement of the deck would ultimately be part of the planning of the overall master planning process,” Mr. Oros said of the district’s 2020 Capital Improvement Plan.

Director of Planning and Operations Matt McCue said the district will need to look at the entire park property as a whole before determining specific plans for the deck and the banquet facility. He said there are multiple design and construction factors he would need to take into consideration before the district spends any money on the deck, only a fraction of the entire property.

Mr. Oros revealed in the July meeting that the entire deck would need to be replaced because of its poor condition, which include wide spacing of the joists that support the structure, using the wrong type of decking, rotting in various places and wear of the railings.

Mr. McCue said the doors to the deck on the second floor of the banquet room are locked and there is a piece of wood and caution tape blocking the deck’s stairs at the lower level.

“If somebody wants to go on the deck, they’re going to ignore it,” Mr. Lah said of the wood and tape. He added that the district should add signage that specifies the deck is closed due to safety concerns to avoid injuries at the site.

On what to do with the deck while plans remain unclear, Mr. Lah suggested demolishing the deck entirely to avoid unauthorized use of it if warning signs or caution tape are not enough to prevent use.

“Do we just remove it; board up the doors temporarily until we figure out what is the next step? I mean, you’ve got to remove it anyway, right?” he said.

Mr. McCue pointed out removing the deck, however, would have to be contracted out, and he advised that it would be better to wait until the entire property goes through developmental designs before considering any construction project expenses. He added that any design planning would not begin until 2020 and the following construction would not begin until 2021.

“As part of the master planning process, we’re a ways out on Veterans Legacy Woods,” Mr. Oros said. “We’re a ways out from getting a new deck, realistically, or anything else for that matter.”

“I would really hate to see someone getting injured just because they wanted to see what the deck is like,” Mr. Lah said.

Commissioner Jackie Dottore said she was torn on whether the district should continue accepting reservations of the banquet facility while the deck is closed, noting that the banquet room gets people to the park, but she understands the safety concerns if people disregard the deck’s closing.

In the meantime, the board agreed to leave the situation as is and hold off on any official decisions until after meeting with the catering company and nailing down negotiations, but include additional signage that specifies the instability and safety concerns of the deck.

Mr. Oros noted that the district does have a waiver of liability that people must sign when using the facility. The board agreed that they could add another form to the waiver regarding the condition of the deck that people would acknowledge their awareness of the deck’s closing due to instability and safety concerns. The board also suggested stronger signage to alert visitors of the park of the deck’s safety risks in addition to the boarding and caution tape already in place.

In other news, The GPD held a records retention meeting before the regular board meeting. The board approved the destruction of records including various correspondence slips, vouchers and receipts. The board agreed to make the records available for an additional 30 calendar days from Aug. 13 before their destruction for public review. The records will be available for review on Saturdays in addition to regular business days.

The next regular board meeting will be held Sept. 10 at Frohring Meadows at 8:30 a.m.

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