The Wellington Village Council approved an interlocal agreement with the Palm Beach County School District on Tuesday, May 28 that will let the village and the district jointly develop a park adjacent to Wellington High School.
Like she did when the agreement was first proposed, Mayor Anne Gerwig dissented in the final vote, once again stating her concerns that the agreement is one-sided and not in the best interests of the village. Gerwig was also concerned that tennis courts are being proposed over a drainage inlet and that a short timeframe is not long enough to decide if a new community pool will be built at the site.
The proposed project will cost taxpayers approximately $12 million — more if the optional pool project is added in later. Gerwig was adamant that more time should be given to the preliminary agreements between the parties.
Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes explained how the agreement is set up.
“What you should have received from the clerk’s office is the latest version of the interlocal agreement,” he said. “Following up from the comments we had last week, generally, the agreement remains the same, but I am going to point out where there is a change.”
A conversation at the council’s agenda review meeting on May 23 centered on the issue of lease commencement dates and timeframes.
“The way the agreement was structured, the lease commencement was set for the time of execution,” Barnes said. “The actual lease commencement time frame will not be until the fields are actually completed. So, the lease time frame of the 20 and 30 years doesn’t commence until we actually have beneficial use of the facilities and they are constructed.”
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone was glad to see that issue clarified. “This is a really important change,” he said.
Barnes agreed. “The Wellington High School athletic facility was two parts. We wanted the interlocal agreement to reflect the possibility of relocating the aquatics facility,” he said. “What we did was to decide by the year 2021 and construct by 2025, but we have added the additional two years, 2023 and 2027, that the school board is considering now. We wanted additional time for the decision-making process.”
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said that approving the agreement does not yet finalize the timeframes. “So, if you make a motion, this would give staff the ability to negotiate those time frames as discussed,” she said.
Whether or not to move the Wellington Aquatics Complex as part of a repurposing of the land around the Wellington Community Center is an issue that has divided the council several times over the past year. Gerwig has opposed that idea as well.
“The $12 million on Item 4C, is this including the pool?” Gerwig asked.
Barnes replied that it does not.
“This is not including the cost of the pool, but only the athletic facilities,” he said. “There is an opportunity that the project comes in below that, but that is the conceptual order of magnitude estimate that we proposed when we were looking at the Greenbriar site. The offset is that some of the fields may be more expensive, since we are looking at a synthetic surface. Utilities are already present on the property. Fencing, signage, auxiliary buildings, press box, concession stands, storage buildings, field lighting, tennis courts and basketball courts are all included.”
The interlocal agreement for a facility near the high school replaces a previous plan to put more athletic fields at Greenbriar Park near the Wellington Dog Park. That village-owned land will continue to be held for a future park site.
Gerwig asked about the engineer certifying the current plan as constructible. “It is a combination of in-house engineering staff, who has reviewed it, and Kimley-Horn and Associates. They are the consulting engineers,” Barnes said.
The deadline for the pool decision did not sit well with Gerwig.
“I don’t accept the tie to the pool deadline,” she said. “We are giving $12 million to the school to provide all of these fields, concessions, which they have primary use of all of the time. I don’t accept tying [the pool] to another 10 years. I don’t like that part of it. I feel they should have worked a little better with us. They are getting $12 million and primary use of the facilities. I feel 30 years would be the minimum that I would want to discuss.”
Gerwig also questioned the site’s drainage. “I have some questions about the placement of the pool,” she continued. “Has anyone calculated the pervious and impervious on these turf fields? Right now, they are dirt fields. Where will the water go? Are you confident that the South Florida Water Management District’s permit will be revised to cover all the section for water issues?”
“Absolutely,” Barnes said.
“I don’t share your confidence,” Gerwig replied.
Councilman Michael Drahos did not have a problem with the pool deadline.
“The contingency of the pool is fair because we cannot tie up that piece of property forever,” he said. “I think there should be a deadline that we should all work under. And if we are going to do something with it, then we need to let them know, and if not, they have the right to know that as well so they can plan that site for other uses.”
Drahos liked the idea of getting more fields without having to use the village’s own land.
“From my perspective, we are getting five football fields, three basketball courts, eight tennis courts and a potential option for a future aquatics complex without having to put anything on our own land,” he said. “Our Wellington residents are going to get to use it, and when our residents are not using it, our student residents will be using it. This is a win for the community, it is a win for the school board, and as long as staff believes that we have now negotiated the best possible deal, I am excited to sign this and get going.”
In other business, the council approved the village’s solid waste collection and recycling assessments for the upcoming year, keeping the rates the same at $135 per unit for curbside service and $100 per unit for containerized service. The motion passed unanimously.