- Kristina Webb Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The additional penny Palm Beach County residents have ponied up in sales tax since the beginning of the year could provide Wellington millions of dollars for two major parks projects.
The village’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board – which serves as an independent oversight committee to review how Wellington spends its share of the sales surtax approved by voters last year – earlier this month approved plans to renovate Community Park and build new multi-use fields near the dog park off Greenbriar Boulevard.
The projects now must be designed and then approved by the village council.
As part of the changes, Community Park would be renamed South Shore Park. The money for that project is included in this year’s budget: nearly $5.2 million, including $2.6 million carried over from last year, according to village documents.
According to preliminary plans, the former building that housed the local Boys and Girls Club at Community Park would be demolished. A new gymnasium would be built as part of the project’s second phase, Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said. The existing baseball and softball fields would be renovated, with their layout changed slightly to allow for more parking.
After the Boys and Girls Club moved to its larger, updated home off Wellington Trace, the building that now is the centerpiece of Community Park sat vacant for months before the village began using it for storage.
“The building itself was not really in any shape for it to be used for program space for us,” Barnes said. Eventually, the village began storing some maintenance equipment there, and part of the building also now is used to store paper records. Parkgoers still use the building’s restroom facilities – the only part that remains open to the public.
A handful of people were scattered across the park on a recent night, with two people playing basketball, a family on the playground and a few people practicing hitting and pitching. The basketball courts and playground would be removed, preliminary plans show.
The park’s primary use is for practice for the village’s baseball teams, Barnes said. Games are played either at Village or Olympia parks. Barnes noted that while work is being done the park, practices may be moved elsewhere, or Wellington may need to modify its season.
“We’re cognizant of that and we’re going to address that,” he said.
At Greenbriar Park, the popular dog park and sand volleyball court will remain, Barnes said. But the former site of the village’s tree farm will be transformed, with new multi-purpose fields for everything from soccer and football to sports that have grown in popularity over the past few years in Wellington: rugby and lacrosse.
Though the village’s Parks and Recreation Department has dozens of fields, those spaces often are occupied by Wellington’s club and league sports, making it tough to find stretches where routine maintenance can be performed.
“It’s been increasingly difficult to get the downtime on those fields because of the demand,” Barnes said.
Preliminary plans show four multi-use fields to the east of the dog park, with two stormwater areas, additional parking and a facility with restrooms and concessions.
The Greenbriar Park work is estimated to cost about $4 million that will be spread over “multiple budget years,” according to village documents.
As of Sept. 30, Wellington has collected about $2.7 million in sales surtax money, according to village documents. That amount is somewhat lower than the estimated $3.5 million a year officials were expecting: They estimated the village would get a total $32 million to $38 million overall, choosing the median $35 million on which to base their income estimates. Over the 10-year lifespan of the surtax, that works out to about $3.5 million.