ITID: More Public Input On Community Center

Indian Trail Improvement District supervisors agreed Wednesday to get more public input on the development of the community center planned for Acreage Community Park to make sure the district is building what residents want.

ITID Administrator Tanya Quickel said the district hired a grant writer to conduct interviews with the public in order to apply for a $500,000 cultural facilities grant, explaining that the state did not accept applications last year but has announced that it will be accepting applications after it received more than $7 million in the state budget this year.

The program has previously financed outdoor amphitheaters, community centers and related parking, lighting and site work, Quickel said. The program offers a two-for-one match, and the district has an additional $4 million budgeted for the community center project.

Quickel said the grant writer interviewed individuals and groups in preparing the information for an application, which is due Friday, June 15. “That information will also be used for future work and public input,” Quickel said.

ITID also plans to prepare a citizen survey to be posted online and at other outlets. “It has also been suggested that a postcard or newsletter be mailed directly to residents,” Quickel said. “Those are all options for the board’s consideration for additional public input into the uses and activities of the community center.”

The information would be gathered, analyzed and used by the architect and the design team in the process of designing the community center, Quickel said. “In late July or August, a public charette would be held to review input from residents,” she added.

ITID President Michelle Damone said she looked forward to receiving more input from residents and that she was not content with only the information gathered by the grant writer.

During public comment, resident Patricia Curry, who has stated that she would rather have park amenities built before the community center, and was especially opposed to the planned basketball courts, said she had attended a meeting where the grant writer, Susan Foley, had spoken.

“Through various portions of the evening, she kept calling it a gymnasium,” Curry said, adding that Foley told them the building would be about 18,000 square feet, with 12,000 for a gymnasium and the remainder for other activities. “I found myself after that meeting ended being more opposed to the community center than I think I was previously. My vision of a community center would be more consistent with something you might see in a movie, where they have a stage and a dance, and you have activities going on, but not necessarily a huge basketball court.”

Curry pointed out that The Acreage has numerous outdoor basketball courts. “We don’t need an indoor basketball court,” Curry said. “Make the building smaller and use the extra money to start working on some of the Phase 2 amenities.”

Damone said that basketball courts are adaptable for a variety of activities. “I used to use the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center,” Damone said. “They used to do parades for the kids under 5 and community gatherings.”

Damone added that they might have enough money left over to do an amenity such as a splash park, which seemed to be referred to most often.

“If it means doing additional surveys for input, if it means doing additional charettes, whatever you want, I don’t care as long as the community is engaged,” Damone said.

Supervisor Ralph Bair said the idea of having more workshops was very altruistic but not realistic. “We have workshops and we get the same 10 people every time,” he said. “I don’t know how much more we can do.”

Bair made a motion to have board members take a trip to the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center, and to spend money on a mailer to be sent to residents. The motion carried 5-0.

In other business, the board approved assessment rates 2.5 percent lower than 2012, which is the fifth year of overall decreased assessments.

The average assessment of $419 is about 20 percent lower than the 2007 average assessment of $526. The overall 2013 budget would be up $302,872 from last year, coming in at $11.9 million, which was achieved by taking about $1 million from reserves.

Quickel stressed that enough money has been left in reserves to meet the 25 percent of the annual budget mandated by the board.

Former Supervisor Mike Erickson said he wished the budget document was more specific about the expenditures and more forward-thinking.

“I have said it for the past five years, if I write a budget that doesn’t list specifics, that is not a budget,” he said. “You control policy and you do a good job, but the second thing you control is the purse, and you let staff do that.”

Damone suggested that in the future, staff post expenditures on poster board during presentations so they are more visible.

Supervisor Carlos Enriquez said he agreed with Erickson that they should project the budget out five years.

“We can do that with the type of operation we have,” he said. “Looking down the road, if we do have a process, we can come up with a policy for future budgets.”