Long-planned improvements, new projects and a focus on engaging with residents will be the focus of 2018 in the Village of Wellington.
Recently, Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board approved the first wave of funding for village projects under the county’s one-cent sales surtax fund, and 2018 is expected to see updates and enhancements to recreation facilities village-wide.
“One aspect of the projects will be what we call solicitation for design professionals for the parks to engage the appropriate team of consulting engineers and other designers to put the complete plan and specifications together to be able to bid the project out,” Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said.
Barnes noted several smaller projects that are expected to be completed earlier in the year, which include updates to the concession stands, press boxes, restrooms and dugouts at Village Park and other areas.
Longer-term projects will get a start at some point in 2018, likely later in the year.
“The renovation to what we’re calling South Shore Park, which is the facility on South Shore Blvd., where the old Boys & Girls Club was previously located,” Barnes said. “Then you’ve got the start of a new park, adjacent to the existing Wellington Dog Park. So, you kind of look at it in two parts, one was smaller, what I’ll call capital maintenance-type improvements to existing facilities, and then the two new major park improvements that involve actual, full-blown, major athletic facilities.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig said the use of the funding from the sales surtax allows the village to continue to be proactive with what the village offers through recreation.
“Our gym is completely maxed out,” Gerwig said. “Lots of indoor sports are competing for gym time, so adding a gym to that location will be a huge benefit to the community.”
Barnes said there will be more increase in business and community outreach from the village.
“Between the Community Services Department and all our other departments, you’re just going to see a continued increase in the village looking at different ways to engage with residents in the community,” Barnes said. “Such as increased presence and walk and talks in the individual neighborhoods with community services staff, our code compliances staff, the PBSO and even the manager’s office gets involved.”
Barnes shared the importance the village values toward engaging the local student population in Wellington.
“That’s going to continue and increase,” Barnes said. “Not only are we looking to partner with individual schools through the different funding and grant programs we have, but I think we’re trying to engage with new programs for the students in addition to just trying to partner with the schools.”
This past year, high school students from Wellington and Palm Beach Central high school had the opportunity to participate in the village-run Civics 101 program, which allowed them to participate in mock council meetings. It was well-received by the participating students and teachers.
“[We will continue to partner] with their student governments and their students in general to get their input on what other things will keep them interested in doing things in Wellington,” Barnes said. “Staying in Wellington, trying to look at how we can tailor our programs, so that we provide programs that they’re interested in and want to participate in, as opposed to having to look elsewhere for different programing.”
Gerwig echoed the value of community engagement.
“I can’t say enough about our staff, the experience that they bring and the professionalism,” Gerwig said. “And, also, the council… They’re engaged, and we’re all kind of engaged in different parts of the community. So, that has been, I think, an effective thing for us as a team.”
Her belief in village officials is equal to her view of the residents in Wellington.
“Our residents really looked out for each other, took care of each other during the difficult days we have had in the past year,” Gerwig said. “There is nothing like living in Wellington, and people know that.”
Gerwig is looking forward to the 2018 equestrian season.
“I think it’s going to be one of the biggest equestrian seasons we’ve ever had because of the World Equestrian Games being in North Carolina in 2018,” Gerwig said. “I think more equestrians will probably be here this year to get their horses in the United States a little sooner and stay maybe a little longer.”
Gerwig also continues to hold on to her vision for a performing arts center in the community.
“We have pretty much two industries here: equestrian and healthcare,” Gerwig said. “It would add a whole other element, hopefully, if it’s done right. And, if successful, it could be a great thing for someone to champion.”
Gerwig hopes to see more discussion and prioritization for that at the beginning of 2018.
“I’m planning to get some focus groups together at the beginning of the year that could talk about the different uses, the different business interests that might want to make use of the facility and drive the conversation from the residents,” Gerwig said. “Drive it from the business and the residents that we have here, and get the conversation going that way.”
Gerwig looks to promote engagement within in the western communities as well, hoping to see more friendly competition and participation between neighboring communities. One such event is the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“Cancer is one of those things that touches every family. Unfortunately, it touches every person in some way,” Gerwig said. “Working together on the Relay for Life, I think it’s going to be fun. I’m hoping we can get more competition going between us and the neighboring communities. That’s one thing that we had talked about last year, so maybe we’ll have some kind of intramural games between Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage during the event.”
Gerwig also stressed a renewed focus on traffic safety. The village has recently been affected by car crashes that saw the loss of Wellington residents, and the mayor put driving within the village and overall into perspective.
“If everyone just slowed down,” Gerwig said. “If we could just take a deep breath and know that nothing in life is more important than keeping [your] eyes on the road, [your] hands on the wheel and making sure that [you] don’t drink and drive or drive under the influence of anything. If you’re not completely clearheaded, don’t drive, and don’t be in such a hurry.”
Gerwig expressed her love for her role as Wellington’s mayor, as she looks toward the beginning of a new year in the village.
“I’m so proud to be the mayor here. It’s still an incredible honor,” Gerwig said. “Most of the time when I say I’m the mayor here to people in the community, they’re still kind of surprised. They don’t really pay that much attention to local government, and it’s just a huge privilege to be the mayor here and to work with the group of people that have done a great job to make this the best hometown atmosphere in South Florida.”