During the Jan. 14 Wellington Village Council meeting, several council members compared their desire to replace the existing Wellington Community Center and tennis facility to the decision to build the Wellington Village Hall building. There is absolutely no basis for the comparison of these two decision processes.
Construction of the village hall met a totally obvious, serious need of the Wellington community that had grown and outgrown all of its available facilities during the decade leading up its construction. Village officials and employees were scattered all around the community, mostly in commercial space, rented at premium prices, during a period of rapid growth and increasing real estate (and rental) prices. Inefficiencies of employees and inconveniences of residents were endemic, with residents forced to drive back and forth among different locations to conduct business. Village employees often were not even sure which office, in which shopping center or office building, contained a specific function that a resident might need. Even the council had no permanent office or meeting chamber, having to preempt resident usage of the community center when council meetings were held.
Thus, the capital expenditures for the village hall had a clear value in time, money and efficiency associated with its construction. In addition, once some of the village functions were centralized in the new village hall, some of the facilities occupied previously by village employees were turned over to other governmental functions, further adding to cost savings and efficiency. For example, relocation of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Wellington substation to a location just off Greenbriar Blvd. permitted the elimination of the expense of the PBSO office in the Wellington Mall.
Despite the obvious need and benefit of the village hall, several of the council members felt it necessary to brag about how they opposed that decision at the time, and are now glad that the project went ahead anyway. Great. They were wrong then, and now they are wrong again with regard to the community center and tennis court project.
Unlike village hall, there is no economic benefit arising from building a new community center and tennis courts. The best that the council members could do was cite some ephemeral aesthetic benefits of the beautiful lakefront and more modern, architecturally pleasing buildings. They even tried to draw additional parallels to construction of Village Park on Pierson Road. They claimed that many residents were opposed to that and now they are glad that it is there. Again, this is faulty logic. Village Park provided facilities that simply did not exist before the park was built. The capital expenditure for that park provided for a wide range of activities within the village that simply could not take place before it was built.
Replacing a fully functional community center and tennis courts, with ones that are prettier and more modern, does not add any functionality. Everything that we will be able to do after $14 to $20 million is spent on this reconstruction can be done perfectly well today.
The council members also cited some vague argument that it will cost more to do this project in the future than it will today. Maybe… maybe not. Maybe there will be another recession, and if a future council acts more efficiently and expeditiously then, they will capture the lower prices that might exist at that time. Maybe, 10 or 15 years from now, when it might be more critical to replace today’s facilities, there will be newer technologies that will reduce construction and maintenance costs. Perhaps, in the future, the village might have grown in such a way that additional community center and tennis facilities will be needed in other locations, rather than concentrating all of the resources at one site each.
There is simply no way to plan and build today for a future 10 or more years away with any confidence and assurance that those dollars will be well spent. In the meantime, locking in a commitment to spend $13 million or more on replacing fully functional existing facilities, when $4 or $5 million in renovations is all that is required is fiscally, economically and morally irresponsible.
Roy Daniel Rosner, Wellington