From their homes and other locations throughout Wellington and beyond, Wellington Village Council members and numerous support staff convened online via the Zoom platform for a council meeting on Tuesday, May 12.
Despite some technical challenges, the village’s business was conducted remotely.
While meeting via Zoom has become the norm for Wellington over the past two months, Village Manager Paul Schofield does not expect it will continue.
“We are scheduling the next meeting in the village council chambers on Tuesday, May 26, with social distancing,” he said, requesting a delay of an agenda item to appoint board and committee members until that meeting, so it could be done face to face, more or less.
The council will be selecting the new appointees for the Architectural Review Board; the Construction Board of Adjustment & Appeals; the Education Committee; the Equestrian Preserve Committee; the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board; the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board; the Public Safety Committee; the Senior Advisory Committee; and the Tree Board.
“This gives interested parties two additional weeks to contact us and apply,” Councilman John McGovern pointed out.
Councilman Michael Napoleone agreed.
“I would not feel comfortable appointing someone I had not met or talked to before,” Napoleone said, encouraging potential board members to contact council members. “I have an appointment to the Senior Advisory Committee, so contact me.”
The technology used to hold the meeting meant that a dedicated live telephone line was available for the public to make comments related to the public hearing and public forum. However, no one called in, and no cards were submitted in advance with comments. Then again, there was nothing deeply controversial on the agenda.
The single public hearing was the first reading for council approval on recommended changes to the special magistrate appointment policy and process. The ordinance eliminates term limits previously adopted and clarifies the appointment process and qualifications for special magistrates. The measure passed unanimously.
The one regular agenda item, once the committee appointments were removed, was for approval of continued use of outside professional legal services with multiple firms in an amount up to $125,000 through Sept. 30, 2020.
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said that the amount has been anticipated and called for in the current budget, and that any of the amount that is not used will be returned to the general fund. According to Cohen, $200,000 had been allocated and $83,000 has been expended in outside legal fees.
“In cases when we are defending, our insurance carrier provides a defense,” Cohen noted, citing the ongoing Pine Tree Water Control District case litigation, in which the court has granted a temporary injunction.
The Pine Tree case is one of the cases that the current bills are related to. “I believe we will prevail in the appeal and that Pine Tree will be more inclined to settle,” Cohen said.
McGovern wanted to know how the costs are being divided up with the League of Cities, which is providing a defense for a companion case.
“It is apportioned when possible, and there have been significant expert witness fees,” Cohen said.
“We pay substantial insurance payments to protect us,” McGovern said.
Cohen said that she will explore with the League of Cities any potential cost sharing of legal fees and report back at the next meeting. The vote to authorize the payments was unanimous.
Also at the meeting, Schofield gave an update on the village response to COVID-19 and recommended residents review the information on the village’s web site at www.wellingtonfl.gov. Updates about the new testing site at Village Park, appointments, regulations and re-opening procedures on the phased plans, which are changing daily, are listed, and updated frequently.