The Wellington Village Council approved its proposed taxes for the upcoming fiscal year on Tuesday, Aug. 10. The rates, which are largely unchanged from the current year, will now be subject to public hearings for resident input.
Also at the meeting, the council increased the village staff’s ability to approve contracts and finalized amendments to the year-long review of Wellington’s comprehensive plan despite threats of a possible lawsuit.
Wellington’s ad valorem millage rate will remain at 2.47 per $1,000 taxable property value, which is the consistent rate for a five-year period that the council promised three years ago. The Acme Improvement District assessment also remains unchanged at $230 per unit.
With a new contract to replace the current carrier, the solid waste curbside rate increases less than it would have with the existing carrier. The amount goes up by $36 to $171 per unit, with the solid waste containerized rate increasing $21 to $121 per unit.
The water and wastewater typical bill will see an average monthly increase of up to 6,000 gallons usage of $2.37 to $69.89.
The council then took up a proposal to increase the threshold for formal bid solicitations, allowing the village’s purchasing thresholds for formal solicitations to increase from $25,000, where it has remained for seventeen years, to $65,000.
Each such presentation costs the village thousands of dollars in staff time to review, and there are up to 100 of these solicitations per year. The estimated savings from the new procedure will be some $250,000 per year, and a monthly reporting program makes the protocol transparent for the council and the public.
Additionally, total invoices that do not exceed $50,000 need not come before the council on a case-by-case basis and can be approved by the management team. These are also reported for transparency.
The changes were approved 4-1 with Mayor Anne Gerwig dissenting. She disagreed on the new threshold amount.
Wellington’s new comprehensive plan will guide its growth, development and maintenance for the next 20 years or more. It has been completed after a year of input from the entire community, discussion among stakeholders and voting.
When it came time to formally adopt the bulk of the document, which has been approved previously in parts, Councilman Michael Drahos and Councilman Michael Napoleone each had questions to assure this was a final look at the plan and that no changes had been made to it from the approved versions, and that changes requested previously by the council had been included. It was the last step before sending off a year’s worth of work to the state for review.
“I think people should take away from this process that this is the second plan in the village [history]. It is for the next 25 years,” Vice Mayor John McGovern said.
He said that the first comp plan followed the original trajectory, while the new plan follows the trajectory of the residents today. McGovern also stressed the amount of time and staff resources spent on getting input community wide.
The most controversial part of the new comp plan was its equestrian element. Wording over that section led to sharp differences between village staff and members of Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee. One key area of disagreement was on the issue of road widening. Some members of the committee were adamantly against road widening, despite a visit by venue owners to a meeting to request the widening of certain access roads.
The council stressed that it has no plans to widen any roads but wanted to leave the decision to residents of the area to take up in the future should a movement decide to expand the roads.
The issue came up again as the council prepared to finalize the document.
Equestrian activist Victoria McCullough had her attorney speak to demand that council members not allow any consideration of a four-lane road in the preserve, ever.
Michael Whitlow stressed to the council members that it was their “moral responsibility” to keep the roads from being widened because that would lead to commercial proliferation along the roadways.
Carol Coleman was upset that the widening of the roads is going to divide the equestrian community down the line.
In the end, the comp plan was approved unanimously and will now be forwarded to Tallahassee for comment.
In other business:
• The council held a moment of silence in honor of late community philanthropist Neil Hirsch, who was acknowledged, followed by comments about his contributions to Wellington.
• State Rep. Matt Willhite (D-District 86) took the opportunity to bring signed copies of the recently passed ordinance to prohibit fireworks in the Equestrian Preserve Area during the Fourth of July and New Year’s holidays.
• Mayor Anne Gerwig stressed that residents pay an assessment to have their trash or solid waste picked up from a spot in front of their home. Disposing of such waste in front of a park, empty home or the back of an adjoining lot is not permitted, and the village’s carrier is under no obligation to pick up such waste. “It is illegal, and it is dumping,” she explained.