RPB Council Favors Plan To Speed Up Dog Park Phases


Royal Palm Beach staff is in the process of rewriting parts of the village’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget after a resident suggested a change that made sense to members of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council at last week’s budget hearing.

Royal Palm Beach’s recreation infrastructure — especially future improvements to Commons Park — dominated the discussion of capital projects during the Tuesday, July 8 hearing.

A new dog park area at Commons Park probably will now be built all at once rather than in two phases. Jackie Larson, longtime member of the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission, told council members that she was confused about the phasing of the dog park construction and asked whether the village could do the second phase sooner.

Village Engineer Chris Marsh noted that the first phase is on track for completion in March 2015.

“The park is funded in the current fiscal year,” Marsh said. “We are currently designing the park. We are anticipating advertising [for bids on] the park sometime in the next month, month and a half. Obviously, after that bid is opened, we will construct the park.”

“What fiscal year budget are you planning for the structures to come in with the park?” Larson asked.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said that second phase would come out of the Impact Fee Fund in 2017, but added that could be changed.

“In looking at the final numbers, there’s money in there,” he said, noting that the village could indeed move up phase two. “That would not put the Impact Fee Fund at a negative balance.”

Larson suggested the council discuss building the accompanying structures in 2016, the year after the dog park is first installed.

“I don’t have a problem with phasing it,” she said. “What I’m worried about is taking too long in the phasing.”

Marsh then detailed the Capital Improvement Plan budgets, beginning with the 2015 Recreation Facilities Fund slate, which lists two projects: a Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center exterior rehabilitation project costing $93,512, and an air conditioning chiller replacement for the building, at a proposed $167,186.

In the Impact Fee Fund, he noted that $52,067 is carried forward to cover a Partridge Walkway improvement project that is part of grant-financed additions planned to Okeechobee Blvd., which will add vehicular and pedestrian lighting from Folsom Road to State Road 7 and is budgeted to cost $970,000 over the next five years.

For the dog park, Marsh said, $93,000 is carried over into the 2015 budget for phase one, with phase two budgeted at $100,000 sometime over the next five years.

Three pavilions with lighting are proposed for phase two. Construction of phase one is set for October through February. Current timing for phase two would be to design and construct it in 2017 and 2018.

“If the pavilions were moved into 2015, we could bid them together, and there wouldn’t be a whole lot of design modifications to do that, because we already are anticipating the pavilions, so we created a grading plan where we’d just be able to set those in place,” Marsh said, adding that structures are similar in design to those at Commons Park, except benches facing each other were envisioned for the dog park.

“So you’re saying it would be smarter to include them in the plans, now?” Councilman Fred Pinto asked.

Marsh supported that idea and recommended that the council do so.

Liggins noted that seat walls would be included to provide lots of seating at the park.

“These pavilions, I think, are the key to the success of the park,” he said. “You can say it’s a dog park, but it’s really a park for people with dogs. This is the place that gives people the opportunity to socialize with each other while the dogs are doing whatever. This is the central gathering place for the people, and this is why people will come back to the park.”

By consensus, the council agreed to reconsider the timing of the dog park’s phasing.

Marsh also detailed plans that will put an amphitheater on the Great Lawn at Commons Park, at a starting cost of $50,000 in the coming year, and a total of $550,000 over the next several years.

“We have applied for a grant to the tune of a half-million dollars,” Marsh said. “The unique part of the grant is that we’re able to use funds we’ve already expended to construct the park for that, so our match is funds that have already been spent. It will reduce the operating cost for our large events to the tune of $75,000 to $100,000. We would be looking to begin design in 2015, begin construction in 2016 and complete in 2017.”

The Commons Park North Access project, Marsh said, is budgeted for $370,000, with a trails grant being sought for $200,000. Design would start in 2016, with completion by 2018.

A parking lot addition for the park would add 78 more spaces, partially grant-financed, and the village would spend about $75,000 toward the $245,000 total cost. A $250,000 mini-golf course is planned down the road, but several council members questioned whether the need would arise for more amenities.

More controversial was a discussion of an aquatic center in the village.

Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio noted that under his contractual services budget, a substantial increase will provide for a $25,000 feasibility study on the possibility of either taking over Palm Beach County’s Calypso Bay Waterpark at Seminole Palms Park on Lamstein Lane, or building a proposed village-owned aquatic center.

“The feasibility study for the aquatic center will be looking into the possibility of either Palm Beach County working with us where we would take over that facility… or building our own center,” Recchio said. “The study will come in and give us numbers and tell us just how feasible is it.”

Vice Mayor David Swift chuckled at Recchio’s suggestion about taking over the county facility.

“Four years ago,” he recalled, “I went to the county to ask for numbers, because I was interested in that whole issue. Could the village actually take over that or build a facility similar? I got the revenue side, but I never really got the expense side. That was buried all over the place. I don’t think even a public records request would get you the information you’re looking for… Will a feasibility study get the numbers you’re looking for? Good luck.”

Village Manager Ray Liggins said the study would focus on the bottom line, with an emphasis on specific operating costs, such as lifeguards, and the capital investments required. “It looks like a winner,” he said, but the study would dig in and enumerate the potential.

Swift did not agree. “Is there anybody up here who really thinks there’s a positive cash flow from that?” he asked.

Mayor Matty Mattioli replied, “Absolutely not. I can tell you from experience: you own the pool. Plus it costs you to maintain that pool. And now you want an aquatic center?”

Councilman Fred Pinto was more upbeat on the idea.

“Actually, Calypso Bay is one of the few positive revenue streams of all of the aquatic facilities that the county owns,” he said. “My concern is that we want a facility within the village vicinity that our citizens can take advantage of, and we’ve talked about this. I thought one of the reasons we were doing the analysis is, we really don’t have a frame of reference… Hopefully we’ll get some credible expertise and expert insight from this consultant.”

Mattioli warned of hidden expenses.

“You think Commons Park is running you broke? You get the aquatic center, and Commons Park will look like a Boy Scout camp,” he said. “You gotta have two full-time lifeguards, you gotta have the water tested every hour… you don’t know what you’re getting into.”

Pinto insisted that the village should get the information, and Councilman Jeff Hmara agreed.

But Swift pointed out that the fact that the county runs Calypso Bay is a good thing. “A service is provided, and we don’t have to pay anything for it,” he said.