Several members of Oviedo City Council said their constituents have been asking for a community center with senior citizen programming for years.
Two locations are being eyed by the city as possible spots for a community center: the Fountain Head Baptist Church property on Oviedo Boulevard and Round Lake Park.
On Monday night, the Council gave city staff the green light to move forward with contract negotiations with Fountain Head Baptist Church and to come back with a proposal. Once that proposal is available it can be compared to the Round Lake Park option.
The Council approved using $2.5 million of the $21 million in federal Covid-19 relief funding allocated to the city for a community center on March 7.
The 3 acre Fountain Head property was appraised at $3.2 million but Oviedo City Manager Bryan Cobb said he doesn’t think that’s a realistic price, which is why he asked for permission from the Council to negotiate.
The appraisal was based on the amount of residential units the property would allow, which is 18 residential units per acre. That 18 unit number multiplied by the 3 acres would allow 53 residential units valued at $60,000 a piece, which would equal almost $3.2 million.
Cobb said it would be hard to achieve that many units on that property and said a price tag of $1 million to $1.5 million would be more realistic.
Cobb said the property’s existing 4,750 square-foot building would be conducive to a community center with a great room, classrooms and a kitchen, and there is existing parking. It also has a trail connection to Solary Park to create walkable opportunities. He said the parking could also serve as general downtown parking as it becomes more developed.
The city is also considering Round Lake Park as a location. Cobb said the city could possibly utilize the $500,000 cultural grant the city applied for in February toward the project, if it’s awarded. The disadvantage to that location is that the existing building – the one Oviedo Citizens in Action meets in – is smaller than the one on the Fountain Head property.
Mayor Megan Sladek expressed concern about investing in a public building.
“My main concern is we don’t currently collect enough in taxes to cover the things we already have, and we’re having a discussion now about taking potentially high-priced real estate that would stay on the tax rolls, turning it into another public facility that would cost, according to [Recreation and Parks Director Dru Boulware], about a half a million minimum per year to keep the doors open on it,” she said.
“If we are not interested in raising taxes to keep it open, we already are subsidizing our existing sized parks department by $4.1 million a year. We need to think about how we’re going to increase this subsidy even more to allow this to happen.”
Sladek was referring to the Recreation and Parks Department expenses in 2019 of $5.8 million compared to its total revenue of $1.6 million. The current cost recovery for recreation in the city is 30% and the cost recovery for events in the city is 50%.
But the rest of the Council said there is a need and desire among their constituents for a community center that will offer senior programming, such as pickleball.
“We have promised a facility that is dedicated to senior programming for years and we have an opportunity to provide that, to fulfill our promise,” Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack said. “I totally understand what you’re saying about being able to afford it. We have to be creative.”
Pollack said that senior programming can be offered by day and the city could rent the facility out at night, creating a revenue source.
Sladek asked whether the city can get creative with offering programming in existing public buildings, such as City Hall.
Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said that although 25 percent of Oviedo’s population is over the age of 50, the city spends a good deal of money on facilities and programming that’s geared toward children and young families, such as playgrounds and recreational activities.
“There’s a substantial amount of seniors in this community and we continuously spend a lot of money… on recreation but right now none of that is going to seniors,” she said. “We do have to give them a place to meet and join because they don’t have one.”
About 65% of Winter Springs Senior Center members are from Winter Springs. About 45 members are from Oviedo.
Senior center manager Julie Trujillo said she worries about capacity issues over the next five to 10 years when the Baby Boomer population retires. She said they do not have to turn away any of their 834 members because of capacity but that their classes are full.
“I think every city should have their own senior center,” she said.
Consensus on the Oviedo City Council was for the center to prioritize senior programming with the option to have other non-age-specific programming when senior programming is not taking place.
“We’ve got amenities in this city for everything. This is the last amenity that makes the city whole,” Councilman Keith Britton said. “We’re going to have to address how we pay for it, how we maintain it, just like we do for everything else, but last I checked we’re not in that bad a shape as far as how we maintain the city. We’re a lot better than a lot of places.”
Update on playground maintenance
The Council approved spending $350,000 of the $21 million in federal Covid-relief funding on playground structure and poured-in-place (PIP) rubber playground surfacing replacement on March 7.
The city is considering the Oviedo Sports Complex playground, the Riverside Park playground and the Shane Kelly Park playground for new playgrounds, new PIP and possibly new shade structures.
The city is also considering adding a swing set to the new Boston Hill Park playground.
Sladek suggested that the “giant divot” at the Center Lake Park playground be considered for maintenance as well.
Watch the Council’s March 24 meeting