The Wellington Village Council spent several hours Monday, Aug. 9 in a workshop session about capital improvement projects planned for the next fiscal year and beyond. It was primarily an informational question-and-answer presentation from the village staff, and decisions on projects were not finalized.
First up was a look at the capital improvements plan for the village’s utility department during fiscal year 2021-22. These projects follow a strategic direction of five elements — to secure a sustainable water supply source, provide a major renewal of critical facilities, a major replacement of aging equipment, increase resiliency, and provide an emergency operations upgrade in investments and technology.
Deputy Village Manager Tanya Quickel said that the utility system has come a long way in recent years, and that is reflected in the changing strategy. “It took us about three years, but right now we’re set for 2039 from the water supply, and that is a very good thing,” she said.
After reporting that the village has secured a South Florida Water Management District water use permit through 2039, which secures its water sources, Quickel explained the village has made significant strides in all areas of the strategic objectives, representing more than $60 million in completed projects.
“Before I start talking about each of the projects and our overall plan, I’d like to say that our five-year capital improvement program is really a roadmap,” she said. “It’s a guide to our decision-making process for a budgetary and planning perspective, and we’re constantly evaluating it and constantly re-prioritizing as necessary.”
Some of the most significant projects include water supply improvements at $2.2 million, a water treatment system at $2.5 million, water re-pumping and storage at $1.1 million, and a wastewater force main at $4.4 million.
The raw water supply improvements include rehabilitation of the membrane-supplied wells, which will significantly improve the removal of contaminants in the water, including biological. The wastewater membrane treatment is touted as being 100 percent effective.
“Waste from our service area to the wastewater treatment plant runs through Palm Beach Polo,” Quickel explained. “That line is about 40 years old. It does not meet current standards, and there are certainly limitations relative to replacing it due to structures and large trees. It’s very challenging because the whole area is built out.”
The solution has been to reroute that wastewater. “This project reroutes that master force main along South Shore to the water reclamation facility,” she said.
This new wastewater force main system will go to a lift station that is updated and rehabilitated. The part that goes through Palm Beach Polo will remain, to be used for only that area, and the rest of Wellington will go through the new facility. The existing portion will be a backup in the event of problems in the future.
The preliminary capital improvements plan for the upcoming year includes proposed capital improvement projects. In addition to utility projects and one-time projects, there are ongoing projects. Together these total $32.5 million.
Some of the projects include the Aero Club widening and bike lanes at $1.3 million and the Pierson/South Shore intersection improvements, a $4 million project to rehabilitate the intersection and drainage.
The Town Center project, which is an $8.3 million project that includes grants, will complete the Town Center facility build out as a unified park from border to border, Forest Hill Blvd. to the docks at the lake, with an expansion of the amphitheater, park shade and benches, recreation facilities and parking.
Flexibility will be the key to the enlarged, completed park, allowing larger events or multiple events simultaneously. Some of the parking area will be made parallel parking that can double as a food-truck parking area, and other parking will be moved so it is a shorter walk to the community facility, as some seniors have complained the walk is too extensive.
Mayor Anne Gerwig asked about ways to address the sound from concerts.
“Because the sound goes straight out over the lake, do we have anything built in here, berms and things like that? We might find the sound is spreading a great distance,” she said.
Money is included in the budget for the planning and design of a new aquatics complex, but it does not include building the facility. It is only the cost for determining a location and designing a new aquatics complex for the village. So far, the allocation is $1.5 million for these so-called soft costs.
Village staff will be doing an evaluation on the existing facility features, and what is being proposed is to look at funding for the planning and design for a new facility, whether it becomes replaced at the existing site or at a different location. There is flexibility to purchase land, use vacant land owned by the village or move forward with a previously discussed agreement with the school district near Wellington High School. The budget item doesn’t contemplate any specific location.
“This is just to let the villagers know that we’re going to maintain and bring back the pool to a Wellington level, whether it’s that one or another one, there or at some other place, and we’re going to continue moving down the road of making those decisions,” Vice Mayor John McGovern said.
A total of $900,000 is budgeted for a new Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office substation. This is because the village contracts with the PBSO to provide policing services. “If the village had its own police department, it would have to pay for its facility,” Councilman Michael Napoleone noted.
The complete budget wish list includes grants and enterprise funds added to the governmental funds. As presented, the overall budget would require borrowing some $10 million to complete all of the wish list in the coming fiscal year.
“This is just an aspirational budget, putting forth ideas for things that we may spend money on later, but there is zero construction budget for any of these projects, only some monies for planning and decision making,” Napoleone said.
Village Manager Jim Barnes said that while it is an aspirational capital budget, it is a pragmatic and realistic budget. “It shows what we can afford and what we can do within the budget that we have,” he said.
Gerwig, however, did not support borrowing money for capital projects.
“I am all for spending money after we collect it, and not spending money before we collect it,” she said. “I would not be in favor of this budget.”