Is Everybody Ready for the Next Phase?
As the Commission voted 3 to 1 Monday night to move the Canopy project to the next phase, the discussion surrounding their decision raised more questions than answers.
Guaranteed Maximum Price Due in October
The Canopy project will move from the Design Development phase into the Construction Documents phase. This phase will conclude in October, when the design team will come back to the Commission with construction drawings and a guaranteed maximum price.
Weaver Wants to Slow Down
With only four commissioners present – Commissioner Carolyn Cooper was absent – Commissioner Todd Weaver tried to persuade the other three to ‘push the pause button’ on the project until the full Commission is present and has all the information necessary to move forward. After a heated exchange with Mayor Steve Leary, Weaver concluded his remarks but stopped short of making a motion to table the project.
Seidel Offers Conditional Support
Commissioner Greg Seidel seemed ambivalent about the decision. “So, I don’t want to make a decision not knowing what the cost is going to be,” said Seidel. “I’m okay to move forward to the next phase . . . and if we’re pretty close in dollars, it’s going to be hard to say no. But if it comes in at $50 or $55 million, we are going to have to have some more discussions . . . .”
Was There ‘Proper and Public Notice’ of Project Changes?
During public comment, former Commissioner Phil Anderson weighed in with a series of pointed questions to Commissioners, City Attorney, Bond Counsel and City Manager about whether “. . . they could guarantee that proper and public notice had been given to residents, bond holders and each commissioner” regarding the following five issues.
- The “material change in scope” eliminating approximately 14,000 square feet from the library;
- The “change in use” . . . emphasizing international convention tourism adjacent to the expanded Children’s Library program;
- The reduction in green space of MLK Park by approximately 2 acres;
- The “material changes” in the Total Construction Budget and Operating Expenses and that the City Manager has properly budgeted and reserved sufficient contingency and has a sufficient funding plan for the project in place;
- That qualified, licensed civil and structural engineers have approved the drawings and specifications and have certified that the design as budgeted . . . fully meets the existing . . . soil conditions, storm water and parking requirements; and that the City Manager and staff have opined as to sufficiency of those certifications?
Anderson suggested “postponing further action until the City Attorney and City Manager have confirmed the notice of and the content of these questions.”
How Much Will It Cost to Go to Construction Documents Phase?
The final question, posed by Commissioner Seidel, caused the most consternation. The question was, how much will it cost for the design team to create construction documents and come back to the Commission with a guaranteed maximum price? In other words, how much will it cost to go to the next phase?
City Manager Randy Knight said, ‘off the top of his head,’ he didn’t know. Seidel turned to the audience, where representatives of the architectural firm, the construction company and the owner’s representative were sitting, causing considerable back-and-forth among them, but none of them could come up with an answer either.
‘That Number Exists Somewhere’
Mayor Leary got the meeting back on track when he stated, “That number exists somewhere, so why don’t we move forward while you guys get us somewhere in the ballpark.” With that, Leary asked the City Clerk to read the roll. Leary, Seidel and Sprinkel voted in favor of moving forward to the Construction Documents phase, with Weaver casting the sole dissenting vote.
City Manager Randy Knight later confirmed the cost of going to the Construction Documents phase is $640,000.
I believe The Voice video of the exchange between Mayor Leary and Commissioner Weaver will be the moment Winter Park historians will look back upon as the defining moment of a generation in Winter Park politics.
Defining moments are those pivotal moments, that at first may not gain much public attention, but in time, grow in focus to create change never before seen.
Lincoln’s “Getysburg Address” (Four score and seven years ago) was one such moment.
Ronald Reagan’s indignant “I’m paying for this microphone” retort doing his 1980 Republican primary debate was another.
And now, Commissioner Weaver’s, “I will not interrupt you when it’s your turn.”
At that point, Weaver, like Lincoln, like Reagan, like so many leaders on the national and international stage have before, took on the mantle of greatness.
It’s not the words. It’s the message behind the words that matters.
The message behind Weaver’s statement to Leary seems to be, “You’re not in charge around here any more. The residents are.”
How is it possible that this project can go forward without the answers to Phil Anderson’s well thought-out & valid questions?
Mayor Leary continues to show that he is rude, unprofessional, and a bully.
I often attend meetings and have seen an increase in this behavior by him
toward other commissioners and residents who make public comments
during Commission meetings. As Rep. Pelosi said… “Shame on you.”
I look forward to the next Mayoral election.
I believe we approved a library. The project has now been modified into something else. The library part has been cut by 14000 sqft. So what did we vote for? Or is this just another example of Florida voting practices where you vote for one thing and then you get another?
I looked back, unfortunately the library bond offering slyly did include language that included an event center, all on the Civic Center property.
We weren’t told and the ballot was not clear. It was billed as a new library as I remember it, and still I voted NO.
Sale of the existing library property will likely go to Rollins, I say charge ’em up the *ss. Put the money toward a new Library/City Hall. They want to expand The Alfond and plans are just about to go to P&Z.
Commissioner Weaver is correct. This project already has enormous cost overruns, not to mention the interest carry on a 20 year bond which is not included in any estimate that I have ever seen. Bond $30M, they are already over $40M with no parking building.
I’d say ‘not on my watch’ but it is not mine, it’s ours and WP residents / tax payers should raise cane.
Strangely enough I’m OK with replacing the Civic Center with the Canopy. However I firmly believe that the Library should be on the City Hall property and combined with a new City Hall and public parking building. Will it cost? Hell yes, but I see this as a better investment in WP future.
So, what does this mean? Scrap the bond as it reads, take the loss and go to a new vote. Do both projects and put them where they belong on the map of Winter Park!
Not to mention that we PAY for one thing and get another.
Not sure why everyone still uses the word “canopy’ here in Winter Park. Or, “park” for that matter, unless they mean cars. Do we still have a canopy? A park? A parking lot, or three, or ten…for sure. It’s like that scene in The Princess Bride when Inigo Montoya says to Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Canopy? Park? Inconceivable.
In his comments as seen in The Voice video link above, Mayor Steve Leary may have revealed something he has tried to keep hidden from Winter Park residents for a long time.
What’s most interesting is not what Mayor Leary said, but WHEN he said it.
Watch The Voice video.
Voice readers will be interested that Commissioner Weaver’s presentation included slides projected on screens in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall.
Commissioners view the slides on small screens at their chairs located in the front of the room while other attendees watch on screens attached to the walls.
Notice the point in the video where Mayor Leary becomes loudest, and most belligerent.
Just as Commissioner Weaver posts the slide that shows that MLK Park Canopy building project’s designer’s DENVER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART cost $1,166 a foot.
Why would this rather small detail in Commissioner Weaver’s presentation prompt Leary to interrupt and actually to step on Commissioner Weaver’s words at exactly that point?
1) Weaver in that one sentence, for the first time at a City Commission meeting, tells everyone that the designer of The Canopy is a MUSEUM architect.
Why doesn’t Leary want anyone to know this detail about THE CANOPY designer?
Could THE CANOPY be not a library at all, but rather AN ART MUSEUM?
2) The other detail in Commissioner Weaver’s sentence points to the potential cost of The Canopy. If The Canopy cost the same as DENVER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART – a project by the same designer as The Canopy – the cost of The Canopy could be far greater than Mayor Leary has told the residents it would be.
Here’s what Mayor Leary originally told the residents The Canopy would cost them:
Here’s what he’s telling the residents The Canopy will cost them now:
Here’s how $1,166 per square foot would break out depending on how large The Canopy is after all the drawings are completed:
50,000 sq. ft. = $58,300,000
60,000 sq ft. = $69,960,000
70,000 sq. tt. = $81,620,000
80,000 sq. ft. = $93,280,000
90,000 sq. ft. = $104,940,000
But that’s not all.
The cost per sq. ft. numbers in Commissioner Weaver’s presentation do not appear to be inflation adjusted.
DENVER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART was completed in 2007, twelve years ago.
So the cost of The Canopy could be even more, per sq. ft., to Winter Park residents than THE DENVER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, when adjusted for inflation.
“Spending money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.”
Passing by the new Crosby Wellness Center recently I was curious how that just completed building compares with the Canopy.
The Wellness Center is about 79,000 square feet plus a 271 car parking garage built on 4.2 acres. When the project was first proposed the cost was estimated to be $9 million.
While there are certainly major differences in what the two facilities house it would be a valuable exercise to match actual Wellness Center costs (if the Winter Park Health Foundation will share them) against the Canopy estimates
Mayor Leary drives this project forward like a petulant carpet bagger who thinks only HE knows what is best for Winter Park. His tantrum during Weaver’s pointed and logical presentation marks him as a failing administrator wearing the Nancy Pelosi mantle of “ You have to pass it before you can learn what’s in it.” Our city will be far better off when his term expires and citizens replace his lapdogs like Sprinkel and Randy Knight who have also over-served their willful neglect of what Winter Park residents put them in place to accomplish. Winter Park needs a new leadership from administration and the commission’s bench. Weaver’s tactics are unassailably logical, pointed and should serve to set a new course for Winter Park. We need more like him on the board.
I’ve heard stories about this, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen.
When I looked at the Weaver video early this morning it had 135 views.
Now it has 117.
The story I heard was that YouTube will sometimes manufacture view counts for political purposes.
So, say if Leary didn’t like it, he could call one of his influential pals, who would then call someone at YouTube and then YouTube would suppress the view count to make the video look less popular than it really is.
Don’t know what else would explain the drop in number of views in a couple of hours.
Winter Park is one of the most beautiful and well organized cities I have ever visited. And I have traveled to most states and many countries of the world. The disagreement over the CANOPY PROJECT is a thorn in our side but should not be. I support a strong library that serves all people in this world of fast technological change. Changing from the plan we voted for; reducing the size and support of the library is dishonest. PLEASE RETHINK THIS PROJECT AND GET BACK TO WHAT THE PEOLE VOTED FOR.
Steve Leary’s behavior at this meeting was outrageous.
And, this was not the first time. He has also pulled this sort of bullying/intimidation tactic on Cooper in reference to the “Canopy” project. (They voted to keep it out of the minutes so you don’t see it.)
Winter Park voters approved the bond issuance for the library/events center/parking garage for a MAXIMUM budget of $30 million for all three structures.
(This $30 million was represented to voters to contain a generous cushion for any and all contingencies because we know what we are doing when it comes to BIG civic projects in our city.)
Nowhere on the 2016 ballot did the words “Carte Blanche” appear. Yet, this appears to be the way every commissioner except for Cooper and Weaver have translated the referendum vote.
Sprinkel tried to move the agenda item to a vote as soon as it was read- sans any discussion. Period. Leary had to remind her that they should at least go though the motions of holding a discussion of the item. This seemed to annoy her greatly.
Seidel gave lip service, briefly at least, over the “cost” to move this item forward.
But this concern evaporated quickly even though no answer was given and no answer on the cost to tax payers for this “step” was provided in the agenda packet. As this piece points out no one in the room was able to provide a cost number prior the vote being taken. This lack of concrete information did not stop them from voting to proceed to the construction drawing phase w/o a cost for same.
After all why should we care? Turns out it was only $640,000. Chump change here in WP.
We don’t need to care about numbers so small as that. We have the CRA to raid. And the general fund. And the storm water fund, etc.)
You could have heard a pin drop when Phil Anderson asked his multi-pronged question. It was a question based upon a career spent moving large projects from concept through construction. You would have thought someone had cut the feed from his microphone at the podium.
Todd Weaver deserves credit for asking the hard questions in the face of tactics one would expect to see in use in authoritarian states outside of the U.S. Thank you, Commissioner Weaver.
Now, did Randy Knight confirm the cost would be $640,000 or did he merely say it would be $640,000?
Be careful how you characterize the statements made by anyone in government.
Commissioner Greg Seidel has proven in the past of being a man of integrity and professionalism. However, his voting record on this boondoggle library project is cause for concern. We ask this commissioner to really look at the ever changing facts and vote for a re-look at the whole project rather than blindly following the Mayor and City Manager. City management and the Mayor have proven they can handle the small stuff like the the golf course redevelopment, but not a challenging project like the new library. So, Commissioner Seidel, help put the brakes on this boondoggle and vote for a new direction.
Inconvenient Truth / Fact Check – does anyone remember this e-mail from Steve Leary in 2016?:
Vote YES and Support our Library
You may have recently seen emails, yard signs and a website encouraging you to vote NO, or to vote AGAINST, the Library Bond Referendum on the upcoming March 15th ballot. Some who are against the referendum do so for practical, rational reasons, especially many who are cautious about an investment of this size. I appreciate their perspective and our respectful disagreement. It is extremely important to understand that while the referendum is set at $30 million, this is a “up to” or maximum figure. There will be fund-raising efforts and potential procurement from other sources.
The individual who created the Political Action Committee in opposition to the project recently wrote to me: “I am probably a little prickly related to green space and any attempt to reduce, damage, or encroach upon it is wrong in my judgement… So my personal perspective should be of no surprise, and would described (sic) as a bit “black and white, with little or no gray.””
I share this as I believe it important to understand the basis of the PAC’s opposition to this forward-thinking, generationally impactful imperative.
As an elected official, I believe a successful referendum is one in which voters are well, and truthfully informed. The “information” being presented by the Political Action Committee to discourage support for our new library/civic center complex is fallacious. Even the rallying cry “Save Our Library,” is particularly demagogic.
A new combined facility on the existing civic center site would, as conceived, have little if any negative effect on green space in MLK Park. As well, building to LEED standards would have the new facility much more eco-friendly on the environment than two individual, inefficient, monolithic existing buildings.
Currently the northern end of MLK Park mostly sits idle with little foot traffic or use. The new proposed structure is going to be OF the park, not intruding upon it. This asset will bring people of all ages into the park and encourage activity through the park. If we strive to be a “healthy” city, we do it by encouraging people to be physically active, not just exercising their right foot as they press on the gas driving by green space.
Moving the library building will NOT negatively impact visits to the library, especially by those already walking to it. The vast majority of the people that actually do walk to the library, live closer to the proposed site than they do to the existing site. For some it may require an extra minute or two in the car, for others it will be a minute or two less.
Moving the library will certainly not “hurt downtown.” The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Winter Parkers do not routinely walk back and forth between Park Avenue and the library. The facility will not “damage” MLK Park, rather we will be “activating” this little used section of MLK Park. By activating the park, we are better connecting east and west and expanding and strengthening our core, which is critical for the long term health of Winter Park.
Claiming that “our community could spend between $60-70 million in the construction…” is disingenuous. Of course there are financing costs, as there were when we used our bonding capability to finance the emergency services building and purchase the golf course. The projected true interest cost on these bonds is 3.75% which will yield a total financing cost of approximately $43.5 million, nowhere near the misleading $60-70 million put out by the “NO” PAC.
From a financial perspective the new facility makes sense because both the Civic Center and the Library are in dire need of major renovation. We could spend upwards of $20 million just retrofitting these buildings and still not bring them up to Winter Park standards. A new combined facility will not only bring our library to the standards that we should expect, but it will also allow for efficiencies of construction and operation through the combination of the two entities.
From a quality of life standpoint, this single, combined facility will offer more options to our community than the sum of the two separate facilities. If you travel and attend gatherings in most any notable city, you will find galleries, museums, libraries and the like hosting minor and even major events. The flexibility the combined facility offers will allow us to entertain a multitude of opportunities.
Some other points:
Myth: The PAC called the study/review process “skewed.”
FACT: This item was brought before the City Commission after an 18 month vetting process overseen by a diverse, appointed board of 10 community volunteers. The Library Task Force agreed on little when they first convened, some of the members did not even believe that we needed a new library. After the entire process in which experts were sourced, the task force came to the City Commission with a UNANIMOUS recommendation.
Myth: The PAC website would lead you to believe that the new library will create additional traffic and also writes that “Harper Street is the only road providing access to parking for the new library, civic center, and new retail center.”
FACT: In the same section they admit that no traffic studies have been undertaken. So how is it that they can claim additional traffic? They also argue that people will not visit due to the new location. All of the people that WON’T be going, will create MORE traffic?
Myth: “The abandonment of our existing library and the demolition of the Rachel Murrah Civic Center is wasteful, and is not a sustainable action. Our Civic Center is in good shape and does not need to be demolished. The destruction of the Civic Center is only being proposed for architectural reasons, not functional purposes.”
FACT: These are completely inaccurate and in contrast to the actual studies that were undertaken during the process. How can we be proposing for architectural reasons if we do not even have architectural plans? More bombastic claims in search of a single fact.
Myth: “This increase in taxes is occurring without a discussion if this expense is the best use of funds in our community. This bond could affect our ability to replace our dying oak trees, stopping the continued pollution of our lakes and waterways, and creating promised safe passages for walkers and bicyclists.”
FACT: There has been much study regarding the impact this bond issuance would have on our future capacity. We are fortunate to have significant excess bonding capacity AND will have additional capacity given the retirement of the golf course bonds this year and our emergency services building bonds in 2021. Combined these represent a 0.275 millage. The expected millage rate for the new center, at the maximum level, is 0.49. Meaning that by 2021, we will have over 50% of the bonding capacity for the maximum level of the new library retired.
FACT: As the funding will come from a separate, singularly dedicated fund, this project will not have a single, negative impact on our efforts in support of our trees, lakes or infrastructure. In fact, just the opposite is true. Not approving the referendum will impact the areas mentioned as we already know that the library and civic center will need major upgrades in the near future. If we do not approve the referendum, the funds to renovate both existing facilities will come from the general fund which is the source of funding for trees, lakes infrastructure, etc…
The NO group would have us save a building that is obsolete and whose retrofit expense is irresponsible as it will never allow for future needs and will eventually have to be razed and rebuilt. The City Commission and the Library Task Force voted unanimously to save our library by moving, expanding and increasing our offering to remain relevant to future generations. We owe it to our children and their children to develop assets that will maintain our position as THE place to live, work and play.
Our region has beautiful, significant new projects underway to improve the quality of life for our residents and guests, such as the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Amway Center, Professional Soccer Stadium, Alfond Inn, Winter Park Health Foundation Project Wellness and our very own Winter Park Country Club Golf Course will soon be receiving similar acclaim. This proposed, combined facility continues with this tradition and speaks volumes to our commitment to our community today and into the future.
As a fiscal conservative, I truly do understand and respect concern regarding the expense. I ask you to keep in mind our bonding capacity, our projected revenue trend and our general fund reserve position of +26% are all excellent and beyond compare. We are in the strongest financial position of any municipality that I am aware of, and possibly the strongest position in our +100 year history.
There are many reasons to vote FOR this project and the library board is actively educating voters to this opportunity. For more information, I encourage you to visit the Winter Park Public Library website at http://www.WPPL.com.
Say NO to the NO people, many of whom told you to vote NO on SunRail, NO on our new, federally funded Amtrak Station, NO on the Alfond Inn, NO on our Golf Course, NO on the purchase of our electric utility, NO on our Urban Forestry Management Plan, NO on sidewalk dining and NO on just about EVERY effort to move our community forward…
Say YES to a POSITIVE future. Take the long-term perspective and vote YES on the referendum. Future generations deserve our support.
Mayor, City of Winter Park
Copyright © 2016 Steve Leary, All rights reserved.
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What happened, Mr. Mayor?
Is it Mayor Leary’s microphone or the PUBLIC microphone?
The responsibility of any government body is to ask bold questions.
On projects of major budgetary and programmatic significance, that duty becomes even more critical — to ask the right questions and demand accountability and answers, and to share these findings with the public. It builds trust.
You can’t examine the critical fiduciary underpinnings and assumptions of a project the size of the planned Library/Events Center unless you demand comprehensive information presented in a transparent fashion and on a regular basis, and communicate it to the voters. To date, the public has been presented with apples and oranges, but hardly a consistent comprehensive accounting. We’ve been all over the map. Why?
At each step of the process, the city commission should examine prior design team pledges and reconcile differences as well as inconsistencies. Equally important is the job of determining whether transparency and honesty have been met. We’ve already blown past that protocol. This project is over budget with no clear explanations for big ticket items.
It’s also just as important to examine context.
The immediate construction outlook in Central Florida is challenging.
At a recent GOAA Board meeting, staff presented an update on the planned new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport.
A particular focus was contingency.
“Construction material cost increases over the last two years range from 15% to 46% with concrete incurring the greatest increase.”
“Construction Building Costs Indices up 10% since 2017.”
“Continued annual wage increases of 7%.”
“Ten major construction projects in Orlando ranging from $630 million to $2.8 billion.”
The Library/Events Center project is easily one of the largest public works projects in Winter Park’s history.
So we must ask ourselves as Winter Park citizens and taxpayers:
Are we being well served? Is that critical fiduciary responsibility being met (or better, exceeded)?
F.) In 2016 Greg voted to put the $30 million library bond referendum on the ballot
F) Greg voted to put the project in MLK Park going against the petition of over 2.000 residents
F) On May 13, 2019 Greg voted to move the project forward to drawing completion and price
The Voice says Greg’s support for The Canopy is “conditional.”
Seidel also voted to sell city owned property at 1111 W. Fairbanks (bowling alley) rather than add it to MLK Park. He gave a list of reasons why it should not be sold, then folded and voted with the majority. Now we have all the natural beauty and recreational use provided by a new medical office building for generations of Winter Park children to enjoy.
Only about 50 more views until the Weaver video makes it into the Top 10 all time Winter Park Voice number of You Tube views
GUARANTEED MAXIMUM PRICE
That is before CHANGE ORDERS…
The Terminal C at OIA is +10% since 2017.
The I-4 Ultimate Project is way over (have not researched that).
Contractors make their Profit on Change Orders after bidding tight and low.
“I think the damage…is very real…in the 20th century [and in Winter Park in the 21st century], we [or some of the political leadership of Winter Park] put the physical prominence of the city before its people. We actually fetished the urban form and forgot the human beings who lived there.”
-Historian Craig Steven Wilder, commenting upon the devastation wrought by Robert Moses on traditional communities in metropolitan New York, and upon near-sighted urban planning in the U.S. in the 20th century in general
Steve’s latest is to recite a litany of insults, backhanded compliments and assorted condescension and then follow his outrageous put downs with the words, “No disrespect intended.”