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.
Based on what I heard before and in the April 21 meeting, it appears that the voters were somewhat misled. The whole truth was not clearly revealed. I remember being told that the site was not yet determined and would be decided after the vote. Yet, site testing started immediately after election day. A good government would level with the people and would work to create a more trusting relationship.
For Heaven’s sake, must we continue with this “A Town Divided!” rhetoric! It is getting silly. I am not pleased that we lost Commissioner McMacken and his margin of loss was even narrower but do you see me organizing meetings and railing against that result? It is time to move on.
The vote is over and the bond passed. Every single piece of information I received (of which there was a substantial amount!) presented the size of the buildings, addressed which buildings were included, the project cost, and the location. The location was always reported as being in MLK, Jr. Park. If people feel “misled” I think it is because whoever told them the location wasn’t decided was the one misleading them.
I am not sure what else could have been done to educate citizens. For I only had to pick up a newspaper to read about the library and events center and the cost. It was in every paper, including here! I additionally saw information on my utility bill, and visited the City website and the Library’s website, which has a very large amount of information, including a robust FAQ. There will always be those who believe in shadiness and conspiracies. I for one am ready to move forward.
Most sensible comment I’ve read since the election. Facts DO mean something, whether people look for them or not. Please continue to stay informed.