Letter: Stop Wasting Money On Projects

Your Jan. 3 edition reported on numerous, expensive construction projects in Wellington planned in 2014. It is about time for the hardworking (or hardly working) Wellington resident taxpayers to rise up in loud and persuasive objection to many of these plans.

Of particular note is the plan to let a contract for the construction of a new community center and new tennis center. I am about to make some fairly controversial comments, so before I do, let me qualify myself.

I retired at age 55 after 35 years in the telecommunications industry, including top management positions in some of the nation’s largest and most-profitable private companies. Since “retiring,” I have passed difficult examinations and have qualified as a registered investment adviser and financial planner. I play tennis at least six days a week at the existing Wellington Tennis Center and am old enough to be covered by Medicare.

At least five years ago, a plan was initiated to build a shiny new tennis center at another location to make room at the current site for a new community center building and additional parking. It was claimed that the existing community center building was obsolete and needed extensive repairs. In reality, there was a lot of pressure from the Wellington senior community that finds the current building less convenient than they would like, due to the hill at the entrance, no immediately adjacent handicapped parking, and a slow, single elevator.

Estimates made at the depths of the recession indicated that these plans might be accomplished for about $10 million. Now, entirely predictably, after four years of robust recovery, the bids have come in 40 percent to 90 percent higher.

The fact is that the expenditure of this hefty amount of $14 to $20 million is largely for the benefit of a small percentage of Wellington’s taxpaying residents: the seniors and the tennis players. Again, I qualified myself as both a senior and a tennis player. If I see these planned expenditures as unnecessary and wasteful, then the majority of Wellington residents who are neither seniors nor tennis players should certainly turn out in mass at the next council meeting, and yell and scream until this project is cancelled.

The argument in favor of the existing project is that the current community center is functionally obsolete. This is simply not correct. A building of this size and quality, having survived a number of years and a number of hurricanes, can be updated and improved for a fraction of the cost of a new building. Even spending $4 million to update the current building (a fraction of the cost of a new building) will equate to just $8 per year per Wellington resident even if it only extends the useful life of the building by 10 years.

Moreover, the council, in the stealth of night, suddenly purchased the adjoining Lake Wellington Professional Centre for $5 million from an owner who probably couldn’t find a private buyer at anywhere near that price. As current tenants of the office park vacate, the space in that complex can be made available to senior activities with ease of access and convenience of parking…

As far as the tennis center, granted a shiny, new facility, with 24 courts would be wonderful. However, certainly for less than $2 million, the existing 16 courts could be resurfaced, the fencing and walkways replaced, and drainage improved. This would extend the useful life of the current tennis facility for many more years.

Anyone reading this, who lives here and pays taxes here, even seniors and tennis players, the principal beneficiaries of the planned $14 to $20 million expenditure, should be seriously questioning the need to spend this amount of money. Even if improvement of the existing facilities only buys 10 years of additional usefulness from these existing facilities, Wellington will look much different 10 years from now, just as today it is entirely different from what it was 10 years ago.

Wasting money today, by guessing what might be needed in 10 or 20 years is wasteful, foolhardy and irresponsible. The council should be forced to look at a plan for $5 million that updates and improves the already fully functional facilities.

Roy Daniel Rosner, Wellington