WP Still Divided Over Civic Center/Library in the Park

Is the MLK Park Location a Done Deal?

Once again, Winter Park residents filled the hall at the Community Center to discuss the library, raising still-unanswered questions. Chief among them was the location: Is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park location a “done deal?”

The April 21 meeting was sponsored by the Citizens for Managed Growth PAC. City Manager Randy Knight, Library Board of Trustees President Marina Nice and head of the Save Our Library PAC Michael Poole formed the panel to address citizens’ questions.

City Plans – Moving Forward

Randy Knight began the evening’s agenda with a discussion of the timeline and the process by which the City intends to move forward. The date of the April 21 meeting coincided with the submission due date for architects’ proposals. Knight reported that 14 architectural firms have submitted proposals. A selection committee will identify four or five finalists who will make oral presentations to the City Commission.

Serving on the seven-member selection committee are City Manager Randy Knight, Public Works Director Troy Attaway, Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Brenda Moody, Building & Sustainability Manager Kris Stenger, WPPL Executive Director Shawn Shaffer, Library Board of Trustees VP Daniel McIntosh and Commissioner Peter Weldon.

The City Commission will announce the selection of the architect at the May 23, 2016 meeting.

Info/Feedback Sessions in May

Leading up to the second Commission meeting in May, the Library will hold three open-house-style public information and feedback sessions in the Library Community Room.
Thursday, May 5 – 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 7 – 9:30 a.m. to Noon
Friday, May 13 – Noon to 2:30 p.m.

Design Phase to Run Through 2015

Randy Knight explained that the design phase for the new library/civic center will extend from June through November of 2016. As this phase nears completion, probably in early fall, the City will project the final cost of the project and will issue the City bonds in that amount.

Wrecking Ball to Hit Civic Center January 2017

Once the Commission approves the design, the City will bid out the construction components of the project – probably in November or December 2016. The last booking at the current Civic Center is December 20, 2016, and the Civic Center is scheduled for demolition in January 2017.

Residents Ask, What’s the Rush?

Despite the even tenor of the panelists’ presentations, Winter Park residents remained divided on the issue of the new library cum civic center. Former Winter Park Mayor Joe Terranova articulated some of the concerns when he said he thought the project was moving too quickly.

Cynthia Mackinnon, mayoral candidate in 2015, said she thought much of the push-back the City is getting stems from citizens’ perceptions that there was less than full disclosure about the scope of the project. She described being approached six weeks before the March 15 referendum vote by a fundraising consultant for the library. She stated that it was in the meeting with the fundraiser that she and her husband first learned of the full scope of the project.

In a memo to the panelists and Commissioners sent April 22, Mackinnon summed up her misgivings. “In summary, first, I continue to hope the idea of a different location is not completely off the table. As the location was not part of the ballot language, I don’t see why it has to be.”

She continued, “Second, I also agree with Joe Terranova’s comment that this project seems to be proceeding with surprising haste. Why, when the vote was close and you have organized push back?”

Michael Poole: ‘It’s Not Too Late’

In an April 22 interview with the Voice, Save Our Library PAC President Michael Poole expressed sentiments similar to Mackinnon’s. Asked whether he thought the MLK Park location was a ‘done deal,’ Poole responded, “I don’t know. It could be changed if enough residents raise their voices to reconsider the location – to the Commission and to the Library Board of Trustees.”

No Business Plan

Poole said he had reservations about the decision, made by the Commission after they accepted the Library Task Force report, to combine the Library and the Civic Center. “When they put the two together,” he said, “there was no discussion about the synergies and how this would work programmatically. No one knows what the operating costs will be. They are going ahead. . .without a good business plan in hand.”

Moving City Hall Could Change Things

But, said Poole, “Now that the City is looking at using the [current] library facility for City Hall, there could be a whole new dynamic.”

As for his plans for Save Our Library, Poole stated, “I am going to continue to use the PAC to educate the public on issues and how they can voice their opinions.”

At the end of the day, said Poole, it’s the Library Trustees who are guiding the process. “If they said ‘Stop,’ the Commission would have to listen.”

To view the entire panel discussion click here.

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