Former Wellington Utilities Director Frank Ferrano is challenging incumbent Councilwoman Tanya Siskind for Seat 2 on the Wellington Village Council.
Seat 2 is one of two Wellington council seats up for election on Tuesday, March 13. In the race for Seat 3, Vice Mayor John McGovern faces challenger Bart Novack.
Ferrano is a Florida-licensed professional engineer who has worked for Wellington, as well as at the South Florida Water Management District as chief engineer and the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department as assistant director of engineering.
The Ferrano family’s roots in Florida go back almost 100 years. His grandfather moved to Hollywood in 1925, and his mother graduated from the University of Miami in the late 1940s. Ferrano himself has lived in Florida for 50 years and was raised in Hollywood.
For the past 23 years, he and his family have lived in Wellington. He has been married for 30 years to wife Lisa, and they have two sons and one grandson. Ferrano is a veteran who attended the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Miami, and has earned state certifications including registered mechanical engineer, general contractor, electrical contractor and HVAC contractor. Currently, he is managing partner of a local commercial real estate investment firm and president of the two largest NAPA Auto & Truck Parts stores in Palm Beach County.
With technical engineering, public and private sector experience, Ferrano believes that he is the better candidate to sit on the council.
“I have 40 years of engineering and construction experience… that I can share for Village of Wellington residents to make sure their interests are maintained,” he said.
He favors “cost-effective operation and maintenance of the village’s assets,” including recreational facilities, parks, roads, bridges, traffic signals, water and wastewater facilities, the stormwater collection system and pump stations. He pointed out that the village added only about 4,000 new residents over the past few years, but the Acme Improvement District’s non-ad valorem taxes have doubled. Personnel costs are up about $5 million a year because of adding 46 employees, he said. “The village cannot sustain a budget increase of $20 million over the next four years; the money just isn’t there,” Ferrano said.
Ferrano believes that he will be able to “hit the ground running” should he win the election due to his “extensive experience with multi-million-dollar public budgets and coordinating staffing counts in the hundreds.” He plans to support the lowest possible taxes while still allowing strong recreational activities. “Citizens deserve the best at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
When Ferrano was with the SFWMD, he worked on the Accelerate Program, where he was in charge of construction. “I was in charge of $1.6 billion worth of construction during the Accelerate Program, and then the economy took a dive in 2008, and they disbanded the program,” he said.
He also worked as the assistant director of engineering at the county’s utility for about seven years.
“Before that, I worked at Poole & Kent Company, a billion-dollar construction company in Miami doing construction all over South Florida, and particularly when Wellington was building the membrane water treatment plant in 1987. That was my job. We were doing Palms West Hospital at the same time, so I was in Wellington back then,” he said.
Ferrano first came to Wellington in 1978 with his father, who was in real estate. “There was nothing out here; the high school wasn’t even built yet,” he recalled. “My dad kept saying to me, ‘Keep an eye on Wellington, things are going to change.’”
He wants to see the K-Park property, land purchased 15 years ago by the Acme Improvement District along State Road 7 near Stribling Way, made into an actual park.
“There are a lot of things we can do with the K-Park property; my thought is let’s make it a park,” he said. “Waiting 15 years for a park to be built is unacceptable.”
He thinks facilities should be built there with penny sales tax revenue. “It would be great to see some fields there, a multi-use football field, soccer field, lacrosse field, and it’s about a million dollars a field,” Ferrano said. “So, to do this would cost about $6 million.”
However, Ferrano knows that any K-Park plan will face opposition.
“I think that making K-Park into a park may make some people upset, because they just don’t see it this way,” he said. “Some people in Wellington want to sell off that land for commercial expansion.”
However, he believes that a park is the best thing for the village and that particular neighborhood.
“If you look at the neighborhoods around K-Park, you know all the flooding that could happen,” Ferrano said. “If they do sell it off, that entire property as commercial with all that commercial asphalt, with heavy rain, it could be trouble. It’s important to use this area as a park.”
Ferrano has some concerns regarding Wellington’s contract with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
“Based on public standards of Florida, Wellington should have around 100 uniformed officers,” he said. “Right now, they have 57, and 58 non-uniformed people are great. I would have to look at it and talk to the sheriff, lieutenants and captains. We are lower than the average standard in Florida, and it just seems like there may not be enough uniformed officers. What I want to see is if they are not spending money on police because they are inappropriately using money in the other areas, like the utilities. It seemed like they didn’t have enough money for this DUI initiative they put into place [Operation Wild Stallion]. Those kinds of things they need to do more consistently, and they do not have the uniformed officers to do it.”
When discussing the equestrian industry, Ferrano noted that it largely exists in the private sector.
“The equestrian industry is a private-sector industry that runs itself,” he said. “The Village of Wellington’s sole role should be to support anybody, including the equestrian community, within the codes, the rules and regulations from within the village, and not overindulge or underindulge. In construction there is a saying, ‘Here is what you are allowed to do, no more and no less.’”
Ferrano said he will protect the industry by enforcing the rules.
“I intend to fully protect, preserve, and enhance the Equestrian Preserve Area in strict accordance with the village charter, comprehensive plan, and the related Equestrian Overlay Zoning District,” Ferrano said, referring to the documents that protects the equestrian area by regulating land uses and development. “By identifying and encouraging specific uses that are consistent with the character of the equestrian community, the Village of Wellington can sustain its equestrian industry.”
He supports a strict interpretation of these rules and regulations.
“Adhering to these standards is my responsibility to the citizens of the village. No citizen should be permitted to operate outside these established guidelines. After the March 2016 election, a number of discussions have surfaced on ways to circumvent or overcome the EPA mandate of the voters,” said Ferrano, adding that he opposes such action.
He does not favor operating the industry based on special-use permits.
“For some, the issuance of special-use permits appears to be out of control. A special-use permit is intended to be issued for an activity lasting only a month or so,” Ferrano said. “Currently, special-use permits are issued for six months. Extended special-use permits enable the property owner to avoid the payment of required impact fees and other related costs due to the village.”
He vowed not to let property owners circumvent the system.
“Some big venue activities with lots of traffic and other impacts on the village are allowed to function year after year without paying for permanent improvements,” he asserted. “This is wrong, and the citizens of Wellington should not subsidize these activities.”
He also wants to be a strong environmental steward.
“We need to look at some of the canal sprayings,” Ferrano said. “For years, the canals were mechanically maintained… then they started spraying to keep the grass down along them, like Roundup and some other sprays, and I think it’s important to look at the use of those and make sure it’s being done properly, and that people are OK with that.”
He said it is better to pay now and do things right, than end up paying more later.
“Those environmental stewardship things need to be looked at, as well as the stormwater management within the village,” Ferrano said. “We need some fiscal responsibility and [to look] at the number of employees and how the village spends its money. And the third, as important as the first two, is to look at is how we get people to stop suing one another. There were 10 lawsuits in the last few years costing the taxpayers $700,000, and it just seems ridiculous.”
Ferrano said voters will get an advocate for their needs by electing him to the council.
“I’d like the village to remain relevant through cost-effective governance and for our citizens to enjoy a great quality of life through physical health, family, education, employment, wealth, religious beliefs and the clean environment,” he said.