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Let’s Build a Positive Future

Fellow Winter Park Citizens,

Please share this with friends and neighbors.

As a long term resident and former city commissioner I am concerned to continue to hear residents frustrated with the library and events center project. Much of this frustration is based on misunderstanding of the history and of current circumstances.

I offer details here to help residents understand the realities of nearly four years of process and the implications of further delaying or stopping this project.

Below is a list of major project milestones with links to source information. Importantly, the cost of delaying or stopping this project includes a loss of at least $10,000,000 in funding, leaving the city a library and events center of lesser quality and lesser functionality, along with another multi-year delay. The project cost does not require general fund tax dollars above those borrowed as a result of the 2016 voter referendum. Most importantly, we are getting a high-quality project future generations of Winter Park residents will be proud of.

Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, the history makes it clear that:

  • There has never been any “bait and switch” on the size of the library, evidenced by consistent support of the design and square footage by the library staff and board since 2017. The library is a non-profit overseen by a board of directors independent of city management and the city commission. The library board decides what is best for our library, not the city commission.
  • We will get a project of lesser quality and functionality if we stop the project now under construction.
  • The Orange County grant has no strings attached.
  • The events center is very similar to the former Civic Center and is not a “convention center.” The former Civic Center was always busy over its 30 years of existence. The new events center ballroom will seat 320 vs 297 in the old civic center, meaning there will not be a material increase in attendance or related traffic.
  • There are no 17/92 hotel approvals expected to come before the commission. A hotel application anticipated in 2019 was withdrawn.

March 15, 2016 – Voters approve the referendum for “Construction of the Winter Park Library and Events Center and Related Improvements in the City.”

December 7, 2016 – Circuit Court validates the bonds for construction of the project “in MLK park.” At this point, the city commission assumed responsibility to fulfill the will of the voters and abide by the court ruling.

November 1, 2017 – Architects Conceptual Design Presentation

November 13, 2017 – Commission unanimously approves conceptual design

November 14, 2017 – Library Board and Staff endorse conceptual designs and square footage.

“The library is thrilled with the design as an inviting place for 21st century learning, collaboration and community,” said Dan McIntosh, President, Board of Trustees, Winter Park Library Association. “The design reflects the experiences we’ve hoped and planned for with input from Winter Park residents and one of the most prestigious think tanks in the world, The Aspen Institute. Sir David Adjaye’s design fuels the imagination, incorporates the park and elements unique to Central Florida, and will provide 360° access to learning for generations to come.”

January 2018 – Bonds authorized by the voters and validated by the courts are issued resulting in proceeds of $27.9 million.The money has been borrowed and we have been making interest and principal payments since January 2018.

March 27, 2018 – Schematic Design & Renderings

September 24, 2018 – Conditional Use Approval – City Commission agenda item

September 26, 2018 – Information Sheet

October 17, 2018 – Winter Park Library/Events Center Project Highlights

February 11, 2019 – Budget Overview – presented to City Commission

March 15, 2019 – Now library director Sabrina Bernat and the library board endorse Orange County Tourist Development Tax Grant.

March 27, 2019 – Winter Park Library/Events Center Project Update.

January 14, 2020 – Orange County approves $6,000,000 Tourist Development Tax Grant. Nothing in the grant agreement requires the city to take any actions that would increase development or traffic. Acceptance of this grant does not make the events center a “convention center.” It is “free money,” to improve the functionality of the library, the event center, and the campus area around the buildings. Grant funds are forfeited if the existing project is not complete within three years or if the project is cancelled or abandoned. See $5.9 million of “Additional Enhancements” for a list of improvements supported by the grant funds.

January 27, 2020 – Approval of the final Guaranteed Maximum Price, funding strategy and authorize staff and contractors to begin the project.

January 27, 2020 – Financial Summary – Sources and Uses of Funds

January 27, 2020 – City Finance Director confirms $3,599,298.03 in actual project costs to date and open purchase orders of $985,724.96. These are sunk costs only to that date.

January 27, 2020 – Commission members Seidel, Sprinkel, and Leary vote to proceed to construction based on the “Guaranteed Minimum Price” contact. Commission members Cooper and Weaver vote NOT to proceed and did not offer any comment about the consequences of their vote or offer any detailed alternative.

January 28, 2020 – Library staff and board support the city commission vote to start construction.

Look for leaders who will bring our city together to realize a positive future.

Sincerely,

Pete Weldon
700 Via Lombardy
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 267-5320

Posted in Election 2020, Policy.


One Response

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  1. Pitt Warner says

    We must vote for the candidates who are not afraid to move forward. Jeffrey and Carl.