City Hall to Move Next?

City Hall to Move Next?

Now that Winter Park voters are on board to pay for a brand new library, the city is cautiously considering moving city hall into the current library building.

After city staff recommended exploring the idea Monday, city commissioners called for more information about the site’s strengths and weaknesses. A staff report said the building was in “good” condition with a “fairly new” heat and air-conditioning system and energy-efficient lighting. City Manager Randy Knight also said some current city-hall functions could be moved to another site if they didn’t need to be in a prime location.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea, however. Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel noted the city already knows about the existing library from the research done by the Library Facility Task Force. The task force nixed renovating the building after concluding it has too many challenges, including poor wi-fi connections and limited space and parking.

Commissioners Pete Weldon and Carolyn Cooper both stressed the importance of hearing from the public before making any decision about city hall or any other high-profile city properties valuable to residents. Cooper said it was “fiscally responsible to explore reuse of that [library] building,” but she would not support selling the property.

One staff option for city hall never made it into the discussion. Staff raised the possibility of another bond-issue to build a new city hall on the Park Avenue site, but Mayor Steve Leary said any discussion of that idea was “premature.”

Meanwhile, Winter Park’s new library seems destined to be built in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The issue was never raised Monday except for a plea from former mayor Joe Terranova during the public-comment portion of the meeting. “You’re going to have to reconsider this,” he said, noting the close vote on the library bond issue. “You have a split community now.”

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    By: Geri Throne – Guest Columnist

    Author / Journalist
    Geri Throne moved to Winter Park with her husband and two young children over 40 years ago, after learning about the city as a reporter for the now-defunct Winter Park Sun Herald. She wrote extensively for that weekly about city issues and local politics in the 1970s.She later joined the staff of the Orlando Sentinel where she specialized in local government issues and in the 1980s served as Winter Park bureau chief. She worked at the newspaper’s Orlando office as an assistant city editor, deputy business editor and member of the Editorial Board before her retirement in 2003. A series of her editorials won a national award for educational reporting from the Education Writers Association in 2003. Geri has published several essays and short stories. She continues to pursue her interest in fiction writing with local authors and is working on a novel set in World War II.

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2 replies
  1. Novel says:

    Here’s a novel idea.

    Why not keep City Hall where City Hall is? While we’re at it, let’s keep the parks where the parks are. The train station where the train station is. The hospital where the hospital is. Park Avenue where Park Avenue is. And the library where the library is.

  2. Bob Bendick says:

    This report on the Winter Park City Commission meeting is yet more evidence that the City is considering major investment decisions that will have profound impacts on its future in what appears to be a disjointed and ad-hoc manner. First it was the siting of the new library. Now, the Commission is evidently discussing moving the City Hall to the existing library building, or, maybe, thinking about another bond referendum to build a new City Hall.

    Regardless of the ultimate merits of any of these proposals, the process the Commission is using to make these decisions is not taking into account an overall plan or direction for the City of Winter Park.

    Strangely enough, Winter Park is actually proceeding with steps to do it all right, but there is a disconnect between that effort and our capital improvement decision-making.

    What do I mean by that? Winter Park is moving quickly to complete a well-thought-out visioning process overseen by a diverse Visioning Steering Committee. The interim summary of the visioning process, which was produced with extensive public input, is well done and seems to reflect the views of the majority of the City’s residents. The visioning process is intended to guide the overall direction of the community–to establish long term goals for what we want to be. The logical next steps would be to evaluate the actions needed to achieve those goals and to incorporate them into the upcoming revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Plan. One element of most comprehensive plans is the capital improvement plan that sets out the municipal investments needed to shape the City’s future. This seems the appropriate place to decide what new or modified public facilities are needed, what functions they should serve, and where they should be located to advance the overall goals of the City and achieve our collective long-term vision.

    Not only can this approach produce better overall results, it can reduce costs.

    Some might suggest that all this process will take too long, be too complex.The facilities we are considering would cost tens of millions of dollars and have a life span of 30-50 years. What’s a few more months to do it all right and, thus, to make long term investments that unite rather than divide our exceptional community?


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