Hefty increases for library and flood prevention included in CRA budget

The Winter Park Library will likely be able to add Sunday hours under the proposal that still needs final approval next month

Aug. 24, 2023

By Beth Kassab

An extra $5 million for flood prevention on the west side of Winter Park over three years along with $350,000 more for the Winter Park Library squeaked into the Community Redevelopment Agency’s annual $8 million budget on a split vote.

Mayor Phil Anderson, Vice Mayor Sheila DeCiccio, Commissioner Kris Cruzada and Orange County Representative Hal George voted in favor of the funding increases while Commissioners Marty Sullivan and Todd Weaver dissented.

The spending plan for the special district that covers downtown Winter Park still needs final approval by the board in September, when the city’s overall $200 million budget will come up for approval.

The plan also includes major upgrades for the playground at MLK Park near the library as well as permanent seating and restrooms in the West Meadow of Central Park that will serve the Farmer’s Market and other events.

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A city of Winter Park rendering shows improvements to MLK Park.

The $5 million for stormwater improvements to help fix the drainage problems caused by Hurricane Ian last year will be diverted from money set aside to purchase the Post Office — an acquisition so far rejected by the U.S. Postal Service.

Anderson said the city could consider selling the old library on New England Avenue to raise cash if the Post Office ever came up for sale in the future.

Weaver made a motion to lower the amount taken from the CRA for infrastructure improvement from $5 million to $2 million. Weaver, Sullivan and George voted for the reduction, while DeCiccio, Anderson and Cruzada were opposed. The motion failed on the tie vote.

Commissioners say the money will now be available to address flooding as soon as repairs and projects are identified by an engineering study now underway.

The $350,000 increase in library funding will allow the facility to make significant additions in personnel, add hours on Sunday and grow the amount of programming offered to the public, Executive Director Melissa Schneider said at a recent commission meeting.

Weaver pressed Schneider on the library’s reported average monthly attendance figures, asking if people heading to the adjacent Events Center, but walking through the library, were being counted as library visitors.

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A view of the stacks inside the Winter Park Library.

Schneider insisted the increase from 10,000 monthly visitors in 2018 to 13,000 at the new library today are likely undercounted and that she is careful not to include foot traffic associated with the Events Center in the library’s totals.

Questions or comments? Email the editor at WinterParkVoiceEditor@gmail.com

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