I enjoyed serving our city and wish Todd Weaver well as he transitions from electioneering to decision making as a city commissioner. He and other commission members will decide Monday, May 13 on proceeding to construction drawings on the library/event center project.
Myths about a “bait and switch” on the size of the library and about the Tourist Development Tax grant being used to fund cost overruns, as well as trying to turn the project into a convention center have been fabricated and promoted by those who have always objected to the 2016 referendum and its result. Leadership, however, requires reasoned decisions based on the facts. I hope even the most mistrusting of readers will read below, click the links, and carefully consider the facts.
Let’s go back to November 1, 2017 when Adjaye Associates and Hunton/Brady presented their conceptual design to the city. In this presentation David Adjaye directly addressed an audience question about the allocation of space to the library, answering, “the consensus of all the stakeholders has brought us to this position.” Further, at that time, the President of the Winter Park Library Association Board of Trustees said; “The library is thrilled with the design as an inviting place for 21st century learning, collaboration and community.” The notion there has been a “bait and switch” on the size of the new library is a myth. The facts prove those responsible for delivering library services fulfilled their responsibility and supported the November 2017 plan and square footage, then as now. A “bait and switch” requires an intent to deceive, which the facts confirm does not exist here.
Another fact of interest is the discussion at the city commission meeting on November 13, 2017 (see page 4) concerning the architects recommendations for additional elements to the project. The city’s owner’s representative “summarized the budget, the four elements of the conceptual plan presented that fall out[side] of the initial $30 million budgeted that are desires that they are going to try strategically meet (raked auditorium inside the facility, outdoor amphitheater, connection from the library and events center down to the lakefront, the porte cochere, and the rooftop cafe on top of the events center).”
It is clear from the facts these recommended elements were never considered part of the budget or the project scope of the conceptual plan presented November 1, 2017. These elements have always been addons and those claiming they are part of a cost overrun are not respecting the facts.
Now, let’s go to the November 2018 Orange County Tourist Development Tax Grant Application (TDT grant). The city manager first mentioned to the city commission the possibility of funding the addons using TDT dollars in April 2018, five months after the addons had been recommended. The application requested $2,613,000 for the rooftop venue, $1,473,000 for the performance auditorium inside the library, $636,000 for the exterior amphitheater, and $1,278,000 toward the event center space (totaling $6,000,000). Now that Orange County has approved the TDT grant, the only addon contemplated in November 2017 not currently fully funded is the porte cochere.
Claims that the TDT grant is to cover a funding gap and to turn the project into a convention center are myths. To the contrary, the facts prove the TDT grant was pursued to fund addons to the library/event center project originally conceived in 2017 that were over and above the project scope and budget approved by the voters.
Our residents will now realize $6,000,000 in improvements to the project paid with Orange County tourist taxes, not taxes from Winter Park residents. City staff and the city commission were successful in securing the grant. Please thank them personally when you get the chance. Also, please thank the Orange County Commission and TDT board members for supporting Winter Park.
Politically driven myths have been proved false and the TDT grant has been approved.
The overall project cost milestone remains, that being the creation and bidding of construction drawings to result in a “not to exceed” project cost commitment by the contractor, Brasfield & Gorrie. All facts support the commission’s approval of this next step.
I trust our city staff and city commission to see beyond the myths and to responsibly fund and execute the library/event center project as conceived November 2017, now with $6,000,000 in fully funded additions and improvements. This project will prove a fantastic civic asset that will serve generations of Winter Park residents. Please support our city commission publicly by e-mailing [email protected] and asking them to move the project to the construction drawing phase.
Yours Truly, Pete Weldon