Wellington’s Rec Board Reviews New Oversight Duties

Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board has been given an additional role as the village’s Surtax Citizen Oversight Committee. In that role, the board will review Wellington expenditures of money from the countywide sales surtax passed by voters last November. On Monday, village staff explained to board members what that will entail.

Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes explained that the Wellington Village Council had appointed the PRAB as the village’s oversight committee for the allocation, disbursement and, ultimately, the programming of its portion of funds obtained from the surtax.

Fifty percent of the proceeds from the one-penny sales tax increase will go to the school district, 30 percent to the county and 20 percent will be divided among the municipalities.

“At this point, based on previous records and information we were provided, we anticipate Wellington receiving approximately $2.4 million per year,” Barnes said, explaining that that was a first-year estimate. “Ultimately, due to fluctuations and changes, we’ll be getting anything between $33 million and $38 million over a 10-year time period.”

The surtax will sunset after 10 years, or once $2.7 billion has been raised countywide, whichever comes first.

“The intent of the program, as proposed by the school district and the county, in particular, is to complete some deferred [programs] that might not have happened at many of the facilities due to the downturn in the economy over the last 10 years or so,” Barnes said.

He explained that the county and school board deferred maintenance and upgrades due to a lack of money. Locally, that occurred at Wellington Landings Middle School and Wellington High School, in particular.

“In our case, the village didn’t necessarily defer maintenance, but in some cases didn’t expand or add new features to facilities as we originally thought we would have,” he said, explaining that the projects to be reviewed will not be limited to parks and recreation but would include roads, drainage and construction projects as well.

“In the council’s review and staff’s recommendation, we felt that given this board’s previous experience with this type of program — we’ve looked at capital programs before, both for the department and for stand-alone projects — that this would be the ideal board with a cross-section of the community represented to handle the oversight,” Barnes said.

The board will not be recommending approval for projects, but looking at projects that the council and staff have developed, making sure they are consistent with the surtax ordinance, Barnes said.

“We’ll provide more information to you as we progress,” he said. “At this point, we haven’t really developed a complete list of projects. The council will be meeting and visioning toward the end of March and early April, and that will be the beginning of the process.”

He didn’t anticipate Wellington to begin receiving much funding until later this year.

Barnes added that maintenance and upgrades of the schools is not part of the committee’s purview, but the school district’s, and would come out of the district’s 50 percent. The school district has a link on its web site at www.palmbeachschools.org outlining the projects it plans, including those for Wellington schools.

PRAB Chair Dr. Samuel Falzone asked when the committee should anticipate hearing more details of the committee’s role, and Barnes said that will be sometime over the summer.

“We’ll probably sit down with this board and develop a process that, rather than just having a general kind of discussion, we’ll have an official process for you to look at the projects, and go through the steps to make sure that we are complying with the ordinance,” Barnes said.

In other business, Parks & Recreation Director Bruce DeLaney passed out a draft policy for unmanned aircraft aimed primarily at drones operating at village parks near people and vehicles.

“We did some research as to regulations for us to follow to give us a concept,” DeLaney said. “Basically, what we have come up with is a draft of this policy.”

Under the proposed policy, unmanned aircraft, including but not limited to quadcopters, drones, rockets, model airplanes and helicopters, cannot be operated over or within Wellington’s parks and recreation facilities when programs are scheduled, without prior written permission from the parks and recreation director.

Unmanned aircraft also cannot be operated over unprotected people or motor vehicles at any time, regardless of whether programs are scheduled. Operation at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary, all playgrounds and the Wellington Aquatics Complex would also be prohibited.

DeLaney also announced the acceptance of the Wellington Wizards Rugby Club as a provisional sports provider.

“We’ve had several meetings with them,” he said. “They seem to be most interested in becoming a sports provider for rugby in the Village of Wellington, and after meeting with them and taking a look at the organization and their bylaws, we felt that it would be a good opportunity for us to see if we could work with the club and find enough space.”

The Wizards program currently runs six teams: five boys teams and one girls team.

“We would like to give them an opportunity to be a provisional sports provider for this season to see how it works,” DeLaney said.