Members of the Wellington Village Council heard updates on two looming issues Tuesday, both of which staff hopes to have reconciled early next month.
Perhaps the two biggest items on the council’s plate are the decisions of choosing a new attorney and where to move the Wellington Tennis Center.
During council comments, members asked for an update on both issues.
Vice Mayor Howard Coates noted that the report from an auditing firm tasked with evaluating the village’s legal options has been submitted.
“I see the [report] has now come in,” Coates said. “I said as soon as we get direction on this issue, I wanted to move forward.”
Council members fired longtime Village Attorney Jeff Kurtz late last year and have been without permanent representation since. They hired an auditing firm to help decide whether to hire an in-house attorney or contract with another law firm.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said the council was due to discuss the item at its meeting March 12.
“Is the representative from the firm going to make a presentation?” Coates asked.
Schofield said they were slated to present at that same meeting.
But Councilman Matt Willhite suggested the presentation be moved up to the Tuesday, Feb. 26 meeting. “I thought we would hear the report in February,” he said. “That was the conversation we had all along.”
Willhite noted that the council had to evaluate proposals by lawyers and law firms seeking the position, and should know whether it’s going to go with an in-house or contracted attorney before evaluating applications.
“I’d like to have things decided before we have all the applications back [from staff],” Willhite said. “It would be a better process so we know what we’re looking for.”
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she believed the next meeting agenda would be long. “Is there a reason why we can’t do the presentation at agenda review?” she asked.
But Willhite said he wanted opportunity for public comment.
“I think with the magnitude of the issue, the public should have the opportunity to speak,” he said. “They won’t have that opportunity at the agenda review.”
Coates said he would not be able to make the next agenda review, and Willhite said he thought it would be important for all council members to be there. “I think the most appropriate place to hear this would be at a council meeting,” Willhite said.
Coates also noted that the council could choose to accept or reject the recommendation made by the firm that night.
“Aren’t we making a decision whether to accept it or not?” he asked. “Then it would have to be at a council meeting.”
Council members directed staff to try to fit the presentation into the next meeting.
Willhite also asked staff for an update on moving the Wellington Tennis Center.
Director of Operations Jim Barnes said the next step is to gather public input.
“We’ll have open public meetings to solicit input from the public before we put it before the council to make a final decision,” he said. “The public will be able to weigh in at a public meeting as far as location, amenities and other items.”
Last month, council members decided to move the tennis facility from its longtime home. There are three possible sites in the running: 15 acres on Lyons Road near the Village Walk community, 10 acres behind the Mall at Wellington Green and the K-Park property on State Road 7.
Barnes said Wellington plans to hold about three public input meetings.
“We try to afford everyone the opportunity to come out,” he said. “Some folks can’t make one meeting or they can’t make night meetings. We try to accommodate everyone.”
Coates said he hopes the process could move quickly. “It seems to me the easiest way is for staff to run the workshops and receive public input,” he said. “Then they can come back to the council with a recommendation at a public meeting and we can take public input there. I don’t want this to come back to us two or three times before we make a decision.”
Willhite also wanted to make sure staff reaches out to the communities who would be affected by the new facility.
“This has been in the papers,” he said. “It’s been talked about. They need to be informed.”
Barnes said he was reaching out to the homeowners’ associations and would be sure to get input.
Coates asked when the decision is expected to come to the council. Schofield said he expected the council to see it at the first meeting in March.
But Willhite said he thought that was ambitious. “I don’t think it’s realistic,” he said. “We have about two weeks. It’s a short month.”