Investing In The Community

Investing In The Community
Upcoming Wellington Capital Projects Will Keep The Village Moving Forward

By Deborah Welky

The Village of Wellington is implementing an ambitious Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) designed to keep the village moving forward across all facets of the community, from utilities and drainage to recreation and public safety.

In a municipality, the CIP outlines the structure, funding and timeline for projects that will shape the community for decades to come. Its ultimate goal is improving the quality of life for residents.

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes prefers to refer to his CIP as a “Community Investment Program.”

“Since Wellington was incorporated, we have been investing and re-investing in the community,” Barnes explained. “That is what increases our property values, what increases the satisfaction rating of our residents, and what keeps us a great place for people to live and raise a family.”

With a proposed capital project budget of $23.8 million for fiscal year 2023, which gets underway Oct. 1, there are numerous expenditures on the drawing board to be studied, weighed and considered by the Wellington Village Council. Many have been on the books and approved for years. Some are newer suggestions. Some projects are crucial improvements to critical services, while some are forward-thinking enhancements that many communities can only dream about.

In all, over the next year, Wellington will spend $9,985,000 on improvements to its water and wastewater utilities; $9,365,024 on one-time projects that include recreation and public safety; and $4,460,000 to sustain ongoing programs, like streetscapes, technology upgrades and existing parks.

Here, we are looking at just a few of the key capital projects residents can expect in 2023 and beyond.

Utility & Drainage Improvements

Before Wellington was incorporated in 1995, it was governed by the Acme Improvement District, which maintained the community’s drainage system, utilities, roads and parks. Those remain core functions for Wellington’s government today.

Now, with a population of more than 65,000 and a reputation as the “equestrian capital of the world” that attracts still more people during the winter months, the stresses and strains put on the drainage and utility systems are many and varied. A large part of the village’s capital budget is that unseen money that makes sure those services remain seamless for residents, businesses and visitors alike.

A $4 million expansion of Wellington’s water treatment facility and a group of projects at the water reclamation facility totaling $3.5 million are nearing completion, keeping Wellington’s municipal water supply pure and its residents safe.

Due to the sub-tropical climate of the area, there’s water, water everywhere and no-one wants to drive through it. Surface drainage is always a consideration, particularly this time of year, which is the height of hurricane season.

“We’re continuing our neighborhood pipelining project that was started several years ago,” Barnes said. “We’re sticking to the reinvesting in our infrastructure with improved flood protection and resource protection. That is how we control the quantity and the quality of stormwater.”

This project, with $510,000 budgeted next year, is focused on the older areas of the community.

“We’re starting to go into our oldest neighborhoods that are 40 to 45 years old, the ones that were part of the original development, and renewing, replacing or both to extend the life of these pipes for 30 to 50 years or longer,” Barnes said. “Some of the systems have stopped functioning as they were intended to, and we want them to function well. The evidence of our efforts is that now our neighborhoods recover from storms quickly. We have also made improvements and added efficiencies to our pump stations that handle the surface water before it moves into the regional water system.”

Improvements at Town Center

With an increased population comes the need for a central municipal area where residents can access information, speak to village representatives, gather for community functions and more. In Wellington, that “more” is so much more. In early May, the council approved a contract with Urban Design Studios to move forward with Phase Three of the Wellington Town Center project.

“We have already completed the boardwalk along Lake Wellington, and we are working on Phase Two — the expansion of the Wellington Amphitheater. Phase Three is comprised of the aquatics center and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office substation. Together with the Lake Wellington Professional Centre, we will monitor how those site plans affect Town Center and present a comprehensive plan to the council for their consideration,” Barnes said.

This is an area that has been a work-in-progress since 2008.

“In that time frame, we started the work here at the Town Center, and what was here before was the old Wellington East Club building, the pool and some tennis courts. There was a lot of vacant property around it for years,” Barnes said. “But even in 2008, when times were tough, the village started investing and reinvesting in the community with the new Village Hall, and we haven’t looked back since. We used a grant from Palm Beach County to construct the amphitheater and the Williamson family’s generous donation for the Scott’s Place barrier-free playground. The relocation of the tennis center to Lyons Road and the reconstruction of the new Wellington Community Center has made this area the place to gather and govern.”

The Future of the Aquatics Center

A new aquatics facility is high on the village’s priority list. But officials want it done right, and that takes research and time.

“The current aquatics facility was one of the original facilities we’ve had since nearly the village’s incorporation, and except for the 2009 renovations, it’s largely still the same hole in the ground it was when it was part of the Wellington East Club,” Barnes said.

The location of the new facility remains the key question to be answered.

“The big decision that the council still has to make is the site, since we do have options and the opportunity to build a new one,” Barnes said. “What I think is important is that we don’t take the existing facility out of service during the construction. It’s critical that we look at that. Construction would probably take one and a half years, and we don’t want to shut down programs that may never get their participants back.”

The village plans to use sales surtax funds to offset the estimated $4.9 million cost, $3.4 million of which is in 2023 budget, and hiring the right consultant to help choose the site is key.

“We would require the consultant to look at all existing potential areas within the village,” Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell said. “Village Park has some additional property near the 120th Avenue South entrance, Greenbriar has some vacant areas, and the School District of Palm Beach County has allowed us to consider a site on their property near Wellington High School. We want to look at all possible considerations.”

Public Safety Annex

Keeping Wellington safe means making sure that the PBSO has a state-of-the-art facility as its local headquarters. There is $3.9 million earmarked for this, of which $3 million is in the 2023 budget.

“Ever since our incorporation as a village, we have worked with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to keep our residents safe,” Barnes said. “As part of our contract, we provide the space for them to operate, to support their work at the village. They used to be in a leased space at the original Wellington Mall. Then they moved into the old village administration building on Greenbriar Blvd.”

This latest effort aims to make the PBSO substation more centrally located.

“In our efforts to have a central area in which to ‘gather and govern,’ we have a desire to have them located at the Town Center site,” Barnes said. “We want a public safety complex to house everybody from the PBSO at one location, whether it’s adjacent to Village Hall or elsewhere on the Town Center property. We are working on planning, design and site selection, and the council is very committed to that, which speaks to their commitment to public safety.”

Athletics Training Facility

Although not at the top of the list, a proposed training facility for up-and-coming local athletes is garnering a lot of enthusiastic attention. At the site of what used to be the old Wellington Boys & Girls Club building on South Shore Blvd., there is talk of a 90,000-square-foot training facility for athletics built through a public-private partnership.

Outside, field space would be improved and conditioned for softball, baseball and an open sports field perfect for soccer, football and other sports. Some money for the project, which is not yet fully approved, is in the 2023 budget.

“That project, privately funded by a group named Wellington Athletics, would come in at between $33 to 36 million,” Barnes said. “The village would have to prepare the site, at a value of approximately $1.5 million, as part of the public-private partnership.”