Wellington’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board met Monday, June 3, hearing an update on projects funded by the village’s share of the countywide sales surtax and getting a review of current recreation programs.
First up, the board selected Dr. Samuel Falzone to serve as its chair for the year, while Maryjo Shockley will serve as the board’s vice chair.
The sales surtax update report was presented by Wellington Director of Administrative & Financial Services Tanya Quickel. The money from the surtax approved by voters in 2016 is split between Palm Beach County, the School District of Palm Beach County and the county’s municipalities. Each must have an oversight board to review surtax expenditures. Wellington has assigned that task to the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board.
“So far, our total collections for the surtax since it started on Jan. 1, 2017 is $9,829,271. We are on track for our projections. We anticipated around $3.5 million to be collected every year. We are in the third calendar year now,” she explained. “Of that, we have spent very little. Our total expenditures on the chart are approximately $378,719. We have the money sitting in the bank. We have several projects that have been appropriated and reviewed.”
One of the issues has been that the money has been shifted between several changing park projects.
“We started out with South Shore Park, the old Boys & Girls Club site,” Quickel explained. “Then we had South Shore and Greenbriar Park. Then, all of that funding that was sitting for Greenbriar Park is now going to move to the high school project. There have been a few expenditures at South Shore and Greenbriar in design work that is reflected here, but the big spending will start with the high school.”
The village and the school district are currently finalizing an interlocal agreement to jointly develop a $12 million athletic complex on land adjacent to Wellington High School.
“The Wellington Village Council approved it at the last meeting a week ago,” Quickel said. “On June 25, we should have the final version. It includes four fields, and potentially a pool as well. So, we will amend the funding out of Greenbriar Park over to the high school project once that agreement gets executed and comes back before the council.”
Shockley asked Quickel about the timeframe of the interlocal agreement, which sits at either 20 years or 30 years, depending upon whether a pool is added to the project.
“If I understand what I am reading correctly, if we do not get that pool built, everything goes back to the school system,” she said.
Quickel replied that there are several years before the pool decision must be made. “There is a window to look at whether to build the pool or not, and this is in the agreement that the council negotiated,” she said.
Parks & Recreation Director Eric Juckett clarified the situation.
“The duration of the lifecycle that we are going to have with the high school will start with the completion of the project,” he said. “We will have 20 years, unless we get the pool there. If the council agrees to put the pool there in the next three to five years, then we get 30 years there. However, we do not anticipate the lifecycle ending once we go there. We have a very good relationship with the high school, and we are confident that once we get there, this is going to stay there for the future.”
Shockley was concerned by the shifting nature of the project.
“I know we are an advisory board, but when we were first presented this, and we had the old Boys & Girls Club site, the site near the dog park,” she said. “Everything was presented to us, but then things went away. Then all of the sudden, we find this out about the pool from other people. Where is the disconnect? Why the drastic change from what we were speaking about before?”
Juckett agreed that the rapidly evolving process has shifted on the fly.
“We are trying to get our ducks in a row as quickly as we can. It was originally going to go to Greenbriar Park. We were going to get four fields with a concession and a meeting room building, which you guys were aware of,” he said. “The opportunity presented itself to go to the high school, which we brought to your attention, and to make sure that you understood that it would meet the surtax [regulations]. You guys voted and said it was OK to proceed there.”
This latest plan will preserve the Greenbriar Park land for future use.
“Not only are we going to get the four fields, but also a stadium field that we can use on the weekends, as well as basketball courts and tennis courts,” Juckett said. “The aquatics complex is a bonus. If council agrees to do that, we get a pool there down the road.”
Shockley asked if village residents will be able to use the fields on the weekends. “Is it open to the public?” she asked.
Juckett said that the stadium field will be open Monday through Friday for school use only. The other facilities will be for village use.
“The four fields will be our use, so we can put our own programming, or our sports providers,” he said. “The public will be able to use that. If the aquatics complex goes there, it will run exactly the same way ours runs now. We will have first priority use. And it will be open the same times and hours that we have now.”
Shockley further asked if the idea is to get rid of the current pool near the Wellington Community Center.
“The village has been trying to get rid of that pool for years, it seems,” she said. “Is this a backdoor way to get rid of that pool?”
Juckett said that he didn’t believe that was the case.
“That pool is an old pool; we did a renovation to it in 2010. It’s working just fine, but I think that they don’t want to take anything off the table,” he said. “They want to leave their options open. If we can move it to the high school and preserve our land, for a pool or something additional, it doesn’t hurt to look at that.”
Shockley suggested that there should be a public referendum before such a decision is made to move the pool.
Falzone asked if the project at Greenbriar Park, located adjacent to the Wellington Dog Park, will still move forward.
“The dog park is remaining as is,” Juckett said. “The four fields that were going to go there will remain vacant land.”
Quickel also noted that the Town Center development is moving forward but with a boardwalk only behind the Wellington Community Center, which is in the design phase. The next phase will not be decided until after all of the information is collected and discussed by the advisory board and the council.
In other business:
• The Wellington Marlins Master’s Team has returned to the Wellington Aquatics Complex, where citizens swimming for fitness, competition or just personal enjoyment can take part before work starting at 5 a.m. For more information, contact coach Patrick Billingsley at (917) 565-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Summer camp also got underway at Wellington Village Park this week. There were more than 225 children for the first week of the session. Campers experience a fun-filled daily schedule of activities, including sporting events, athletics, arts and crafts, entertainment and games, animal exhibits, rock wall climbing, magicians, movies, trips to the Wellington Aquatics Complex, field trips and more. The program continues until the middle of August, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Village Park.