Wellington Village Council Honors Student Essay Winners

The three winners of the Wellington Public Safety Committee essay contest were acknowledged at the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, April 27. (L-R) Martin Blanca of Wellington High School, Avery Appel of Wellington Landings Middle School and Donavan Kelley of Binks Forest Elementary School.

The three winners of the Wellington Public Safety Committee’s essay contest were honored at the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, April 27, while the Tuttle Royale project got some needed utility equipment land and a new restaurant received approval for a drive-through lane.

 Director of Emergency Management & Public Safety Nicole Coates said that this was the second edition of the annual 300-word essay contest. She explained that the contest grew out of discussions at the joint meeting with the Public Safety Committee and the Education Committee and thanked the Education Committee for its input in developing the contest.

Coates introduced the winners from each school category: Donavan Kelley, a fifth grader at Binks Forest Elementary School; Avery Appel, a seventh grader at Wellington Landings Middle School; and Martin Blanca, a senior at Wellington High School.

Councilman Michael Napoleone said that the contest got more responses during the pandemic than he would have thought.

“We were asking them to do extra homework,” he said, adding that after reading essays, “I have a small window now into what teachers do every day, and it’s really hard.”

Public Safety Committee Member Jacqueline Hutman explained that the topics of the essays covered a wide range, including COVID-19 protocols, internet safety, mental health awareness, elder care, bicycle safety, golf carts, home safety, and supporting the police and fire-rescue.

Napoleone praised the essays. “They were very impressive. They had researched this and have footnotes. They were really well done,” he said, thanking all the students who participated.

Councilman Michael Drahos thanked the Public Safety Committee for all their time and effort put in on the project.

Vice Mayor John McGovern said the essays were very informative.

“They highlighted ways we can keep our community safe and help it function better, and congratulations to all the winners and all the students who took the time to give thought and write an essay,” he said.

Councilwoman Tanya Siskind agreed.

“The topics were very professionally covered and makes us so proud to see the [students] in the community take on these projects,” she said. “I’d like to thank the parents as well. We know you were behind the scenes [encouraging your students]. Congratulations to everyone in the contest and to the winners.”

Mayor Anne Gerwig said selecting winners was difficult.

“It’s really hard work to read through essays to choose winners,” she said. “[The essays] really show us that we can have faith in the next generation.”

In other business:

• A largely housekeeping measure vacated old Acme Improvement District easements on three parcels of property that had been set aside for utility equipment and maintenance access. The property will be used by the Tuttle Royale project on Southern Blvd., just west of State Road 7. One parcel will compensate the project for putting the equipment on another piece of property. The remnant space will never be used for its intended purpose by Acme, which is controlled by the Village of Wellington, so the easements are no longer needed.

• A conditional use for a drive-through was approved at the new Chicken Salad Chick restaurant coming soon to a refurbished building that once housed the Boston Market in front of the original Wellington Mall.

The measure was approved by the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board and recommended for approval by village staff as meeting community standards. The drive-through lane will have a longer queuing line and a pass-through lane. The project will include some minor parking lot changes and additional landscaping. The restaurant is projected to open in late summer.

Gerwig pointed out that the restaurant has taken steps to ensure it will not have traffic backups, such as those associated with some other drive-through restaurants.

“There seems like a lot of positive comments on social media about this, and I wish you only good luck,” Drahos told the applicant, Eric Royal.

The motion passed unanimously.

• Village Attorney Laurie Cohen requested that Wellington sign on to the opioid litigation regarding the allocation of settlement funds between the state and local governments.

“There is no cost,” McGovern said. “There is no downside, no expense to the village in doing this memorandum of understanding.”

Gerwig agreed. “The opioid crisis definitely has affected our community, and we’d like to be a good partner in solving the problem,” she said.

The motion passed unanimously.