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Library/Event Center – March 2020 Election

Commissioner Seidel, Commissioner Sprinkel, and Mayor Leary finalized the decision to start construction of the library and event center on Monday January 27, 2020 in a 3 to 2 vote. Construction begins immediately.

Commissioner Cooper and Commissioner Weaver made motions to postpone and/or remove the covered entry (porte cochere) and the event center rooftop venue. They also made motions to re-design the project or to expand the existing library with a parking structure. These motions did not pass. They then voted against starting construction of the project that has been in process for nearly four years.

Cooper and Weaver missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and bring our community together. Instead, they continued to try to redesign the project to their personal liking and criticized project costs while at the same time proposing alternatives that would throw away over $4,000,000 in sunk costs of the current design and throw away the $6,000,000 Orange County grant. The alternatives they moved and seconded were not consistent with the terms of the bond referendum and would result in law suits if approved. Bizarrely, they claimed to be motivated by controlling project cost but their desires would cheapen the quality of the project while throwing away millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now that construction is starting, the contractor is executing contracts for millions of dollars the city is responsible for. Any reversal of the project or further delays add millions in additional taxpayer losses.

What is all this about? One of two things, either Cooper and Weaver are not thinking clearly or they want to keep the myths about the project alive for the March 17, 2020 city commission election to serve their political interests.

Notably, candidate Marty Sullivan spoke calling the project fiscally irresponsible, stating he believed we should support Weaver’s suggestion to start over. He never mentioned the $10,000,000 that would go “poof in the night” if that course were chosen. Also, a priority of candidate Sheila DeCiccio is to “Keep city projects within their approved budget.” Guess which project she is referring to (she is a lawyer)?

Sullivan and DeCiccio are being promoted by Cooper and Weaver and their financial backers. All indications are that Cooper and Weaver will use votes of Sullivan and DeCiccio to kill the library/event center project if elected in March, costing us a certain $10,000,000 and likely as much as $10,000,000 more in cancelled contract costs, while delaying the library/event center for years.

Unfortunately, we have two sitting commissioners, two candidates, and those supporting them who disrespect civil process and who continue the politics of destruction in Winter Park.

Fortunately, there are two other candidates running in the March 17, 2020 election with a constructive outlook.

I leave you with this video of Ann Hicks Murrah’s comments at Monday’s meeting. I encourage all Winter Park voters to listen carefully. It is long past time for all Winter Park citizens to join together in support of this project as designed.


Regards, Pete Weldon

Posted in Election 2020, Policy.


9 Responses

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  1. Pitt Warner says

    The part that bothers me is both the library and OAO had top notch citizen task forces which met for months and months. The work product of both broad groups of citizens was immediately discounted by 2 commissioners who weren’t involved in either process. Both task forces brought a broad, diverse group of residents together who generally agreed on two big issues; library and OAO. On the eve of voting, these 2 commissioners seemingly tried to create division and discord in the community by picking apart the work product. Bad form and bad leadership. Local gov’t should be about good governance and respect for the citizens and the process.

  2. Charles Namey says

    Pitt,
    I have to respectfully disagree. When it comes to a measure that will dramatically change the complexion of our community forever and modifies the written comprehensive plan for the entire population of Winter Park, the people should have an opportunity to vote on those new changes. I believe the task force is a useful tool to identify needs in the community and make recommendations. I believe the commission should vote if it should presented to the community in the form of a referendum. The commission did that with library but the library we are getting is not what we voted for. Nonetheless, we have two highly different situations here. One had limited general support the other has absolutely no indication of public support. I resent any major change to the comprehensive plan that I did not have an opportunity to vote on.

    • Peter Weldon says

      Charles, one critical implication of your suggestion is that we throw away $10 to $20 million of taxpayer money and four years of effort in order to indulge your personal preferences over those of the professionals, staff, citizen tasks forces, and elected officials who studied, contributed to, and approved the final design. Your statement is false that what is being built is not what was what “we” voted for. What “we” voted for was “a library, event center, and parking structure in MLK park.” This is exactly what is being built. Aspects of the project beyond that are being funded by a $6 million Orange County Grant, private donations, and the CRA (half of which come from Orange County taxes deposited in the CRA fund). The second critical implication of your suggestion is that any effort to kill the project from here forward will result in legal action against the city for failure to implement what was approved by the voters in 2016. It was always known that this was a significant project for the city and the voters approved it. In the interest of common sense and decency for our city, please move on and encourage your friends to do the same. Enough harm has already been done. Let’s stop harming and start healing.

    • Pitt Warner says

      I attended 2 presentations on the OAO. We can sit on our hands and do nothing and we’ll see Whole Foods/old K Mart Plaza/ office building Morse/Denning developments with seas of parking lots (“No Developer Variances!!” means we get these). Or we can invite, with no guarantees to any property owner, creative proposals. Shared parking and infrastructure costs, more green space, bike routes, wide sidewalks, calmer traffic. I’ll vote for the 2nd option if it means a developer gets an opportunity to ask to build an extra floor or two. Commissioner Cooper and Weaver for some bizarre reason, seemed anxious to protect the status quo of Orange Ave. I’m opposed to referendums on Comp Plan changes but I’m pretty sure if a diverse group of citizens on Orange Ave/ Steering Committee voted 8-2 in favor of OAO proposal, the public vote would be similar. (provided the intentional misinformation as disseminated by Cooper, Weaver and their minions was debunked).

    • Barbara Anderson says

      I second your opinion. And question why a commissioner who sits on the Library Board did not recuse herself from the vote on the matter. Also any member of the Commission who has any financial interests in the issues before them should make it known. I commend Carolyn Cooper and Todd Weaver for voting their convictions. Lets also remember that this is not the mall in Washington, Dc but Winter Park – and this is not the Library of Congress.

      • Peter Weldon says

        Please be aware that the city commission annually appoints one of its members to the Winter Park Library Board to provide over site as the taxpayers finance much of the library’s budget. There is no financial interest involved, nor is there any implied bias. Please consider how governance processes work in the real world.

  3. A Peacock in Winter says

    That video you posted of Ann Hicks Murrah is the best thing I have ever seen. She is an amazing woman. And a wonderful speaker. I applaud her. I don’t believe what some residents are saying about her. She was married to Ken Murrah who was married to Rachel Murrah before he married Ann. And some are saying that Ann’s support for replacing the Rachel Murrah Center was so that Winter Park would just get over Rachel and Ann would take her place as Winter Park royalty . I don’t believe a word of it. I think that was just something that those crazy old-library huggers and MLK Park tree-huggers came up with to try to distract from the fact that we NEED a new library and events center in MLK Park. Let’s get the project started IMMEDIATELY and get it done!

  4. John Massie says

    Mr. Weldon: It certainly appears that your attitude is that it’s your way, or the highway. Commissioners Cooper and Weaver are courageous enough to voice legitimate concerns about this project and deserve better. As evidenced by the presenter at your commission meeting, this project far exceeds the price/square foot for even the recent hospital addition. It was initially presented to voters as a new library, which most people would agree is needed. Given this it still barely passed for approval. However, it then suddenly grew into a library/events center with a required bond issue of around $32 million. Now we’re at $40 million plus. Additionally, in reading the B&G Contract that guarantees a MAXIMUM cost, I see a LOT of Exclusions that look important (and likely expensive) to such a project, but I guess we’re going to be on the hook for those to actually get a finished library like we’re expecting. Another concern of mine is that I’ve never heard of what’s to become of the old library? Seems like a very valuable piece of WP real estate and a sale could perhaps offset some of these new costs. This is purely my speculation, but I will not be surprised when Rollins becomes the new owner. In fact, I suspect this has always been a major force behind the impetus to get this new project underway. As you mention, we’re too far along now and too much money stands to be lost to quit now. That’s a pretty poor reason to justify such a project, but it exemplifies how poorly managed this process has been. I should have know when the “design architect” was paid an exorbitant fee to come up with a design that resembles the Sandcrawler desert vehicle from Star Wars. I think a better option would have been to let the U of FLA architecture school do the design work. If you want to see a beautiful, functional design for a library look no further than the Downtown Orange County Library. It’s one of the most unique buildings in the city.

    Also, just a thought, but with all the trees being removed to accommodate this project (Guess that’s why it’s no longer being called the Canopy Project) who’s on the hook for the $10K fine like a friend of mine recently had to pay the City for an “unauthorized” removal?

    • Peter Weldon says

      John,

      It is not my way or the highway. It is that I respect the process. Those who continue to fight the project are acting out of malice.

      The event center has always been part of the project. There is nothing “sudden” about it. The referendum was specifically for “CONSTRUCTION OF THE WINTER PARK LIBRARY AND EVENTS CENTER AND RELATED IMPROVEMENTS IN THE CITY.” See: https://cityofwinterpark.org/docs/government/ordinances-resolutions/ORD3020-15.pdf. The referendum approved the borrowing of $30,000,000 from the taxpayers and the library committed to raise $2,500,000 in private donations. So, the initial funds to finance the project were expected to be $32,500,000.

      The old library has been the subject of much public study. See: https://cityofwinterpark.org/government/boards/old-library-site-reuse-task-force/. Their report to the commission can be found here: https://winterpark.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/CoverSheet.aspx?ItemID=1465&MeetingID=194. Having served on the commission for three years I can assure you that no decision of import moves forward without complete transparency and public process. Rollins has publicly said they are not interested in the old library property.

      Yes, the project is expensive on a square foot basis. I believe the vast majority of citizens want the best for Winter Park and are willing to pay for it. Here are the final numbers approved by the commission (this may have been tweaked a small amount at the final vote): https://winterpark.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/AttachmentViewer.ashx?AttachmentID=1803&ItemID=1554. The cost of the core project is $33,583,299, or $1,583,299 above the initial funding. This gap is funded by interest earned on the bond proceeds for the past nearly 3 years. The additional amenities recommended by the architect and city staff that were approved by the city commission are funded by a grant from Orange County of $6,000,000 and our CRA fund is contributing $2,132,775. The CRA funds are essentially Orange County taxes returned to the city for use in the CRA area.

      You might not want to refer to Cooper and Weaver as “courageous.” You might want to get to know them better. These commissioners and their supporters have poisoned our community. If they get their way and kill this project the people of Winter Park will have wasted millions of dollars and will eventually get a library and event center of mediocre quality founded in a legacy no one will be proud of.

      I encourage you to study the complete history of this project and establish the facts for yourself.