Wellington Council Tries To Prioritize Unfunded Capital Projects

The Wellington Village Council held a capital improvements workshop on Tuesday to prioritize the spending of about $3 million that has not been designated for specific projects.

Village Manager Paul Schofield passed out a sheet listing 21 projects in the 2016-2020 Capital Plan, with recommended staff priorities that are not currently financed in the plan of projects previously deemed necessary by the council.

“What we are here to do is finalize what the capital projects will be as we go into the next budget hearing,” Schofield said.

The first budget hearing will be held Thursday, Sept. 10, with the final held Thursday, Sept. 24.

“If you’re fine with the projects in the budget as we presented them, you need to fund them, and you need to understand that you have about $3 million allocated. If there are things you want to move, this would be the time to tell us,” Schofield said.

The first four out of the 21 projects total about $2.7 million, beginning with $45,000 for a school crossing at Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue South, followed by $471,000 for drainage improvements and road raising at Big Blue Trace and Barberry Drive, and $1.925 million for traffic improvements at Big Blue Trace and Wellington Trace. Next in line is $2.25 million for road improvements on 120th Avenue South.

Councilman John McGovern asked how the projects were prioritized, and Village Engineer Bill Riebe said that they were ranked from a safety and a regulatory standpoint of projects that are necessary to avoid exposure to liability.

Consideration was also given to preserving equipment and supplies by providing storage, such as the sixth item of $500,000 for a hardened Village Park maintenance complex, and the seventh item of $350,000 for a storage building at the Wellington Environmental Preserve.

Coming in at eighth and ninth, respectively, were $45,000 for a sidewalk on Huntington Drive that had not been included in the original development plan, and $675,000 for a multiuse path in the Aero Club, also not in the original development plan.

Riebe said those projects received a high ranking because of traffic volumes in those areas. “Anytime there’s a path to separate pedestrians from the roadway, that’s a good thing,” he said.

Councilman Matt Willhite asked why the road improvements on 120th Avenue South had been ranked so high.

“I know that there has been a lot of discussion about that,” Willhite said, suggesting that the engineering and design phase be financed next year to get the project going. “What the village does typically is we pay as we go. We’re not going to get that all built next year. It’s going to be a carry-forward.”

Willhite also questioned the ranking of storage buildings, pointing out that Village Park already has a storage building, while the Wellington Environmental Preserve has only sheds.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said that the concern about funding for the 120th Avenue South improvements is that if it is not fully funded, it might not get done. “The money should be available for that road if we’re serious about it,” she said.

She also questioned the ranking of the Aero Club multiuse path at ninth. “We do understand that it’s safety,” Gerwig said. “We do understand ‘pedestrian on the roadway,’ is a safety issue. But how do you tell that to Paddock Park, which is adjacent to an elementary school — and they’ve asked over the years. I’ve seen lots of [traffic] counts on those roads that route through there. How do you tell one neighborhood that has been asking for some kind of solution for kids on the roadway that you’re not even on our list, but you address another neighborhood?”

Willhite said that the Huntington Drive sidewalk could fall into the same category. Gerwig agreed, but pointed out that Huntington is a small-lot community, and the sidewalk would serve more people for far less cost.

McGovern asked whether the village had received any of the forms sent to the 15 property owners along 120th Avenue South asking if they would participate in a bridle path project as part of the paving project, and Riebe said that none had been returned.

McGovern agreed with Willhite that they should approve the engineering and design for 120th Avenue South, and move streetlight additions up from 14th at a 2016 cost of $500,000.

“We’re not talking about a huge sum of money. It is an annual thing, and it is something that is life safety and is important,” McGovern said.